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Four Essential Behaviors for Every Leader

Sean Lemson

HUMAN BEINGS are complex. Throw in complex organizations operating in complex markets, and you’ve really got to marvel at how it all comes together every day. In the face of all this complexity, there are four basic behaviors that leaders can adopt that will drastically improve their leadership and, by extension, the experience of those they lead.

1. Create Effective Organizations

A very common mistake I see leaders make is to conflate the terms effective and efficient. Efficiency is a focus on process, maximizing outputs while minimizing resources. In business, this often looks like keeping employees busy. Ken Rubin, an agile leadership visionary, has a fantastic analogy that I refer to often to explain the concept. In relay racing, there are four runners, with only one running at a time. One hands off the baton to the next. Rubin likes to say that if we treated relay races the way we treat our team members, we’d tell them, “I’m not paying you to stand here. I’m paying you to run. So go run up and down the bleachers while you wait for the baton.” However, the team that wins the relay race is the team that gets the baton across the finish line first, not the team that had runners running the most. The winners in business are the ones that deliver value the fastest.

Efficient organizations focus on the runner. But, effective organizations focus on the baton. Leaders who get this wrong design team formations to keep everyone busy while completely missing that the baton is on the ground much of the time. Ironically, the busier employees are, often, the slower their baton moves. Packing a freeway to 100% capacity is an efficient use of the pavement, but it’s a very ineffective way to move cars.

Great leaders never lose sight of the baton. They don’t obsess over employee utilization as much as they obsess about value delivery, and they create organizations and workflows that support that focus.

2. Lead Ethically

Unethical behavior by a single employee is often easy to spot and deal with. But when it begins to spread slowly across an organization, it can quickly become the norm for that company’s overall culture. Take this common excuse as an example: “C’mon, everyone does it — it’s the only way to get ahead here.”

This slow spread of unethical behavior is called ethical fading. It’s usually the result of an incentive or reward combined with a person who sees no way to achieve the outcome without cheating a little. One unpunished sellout can cause a trickle-down of shrugging and excuse-making. Before you know it, the entire company is now behaving unethically.

Great leaders set and hold the bar on ethics. They don’t allow their organizations to slip into ethical fading because they recognize that it’s one of the fastest pathways to a toxic culture. These toxic cultures, in turn, bring with them far-reaching implications for the company that are much larger than the original reason for the unethical behavior.

3. Connect People with Meaning

There are always parts of our jobs that we don’t enjoy. But what makes us persevere is knowing that our work has meaning. It’s that sense of meaning that inspires us to think of new, innovative ways to do the work. Great leaders have contagious and persistent connections with the meaning of the work — and hopefully, it’s more than meeting quarterly earnings goals.

These leaders continually remind everyone — from the janitors to the developers at the company — of how their company is making a positive impact on the world and the role each individual plays in that impact.

Additionally, great leaders can spot the fire in us and learn to harness that fire for the company. They take a chance on our ideas and make it safe for us to fail while encouraging us to try. They see something in us that we may not yet see in ourselves. They connect our work to something we already enjoy.

4. Coach, Don’t Play

Good leaders stay off the field and let the players do the playing. They use the unique perspective afforded to them by their spot on the sidelines, combined with their knowledge of the game, to help the players make better choices. There’s a reason that professional sports teams pay millions of dollars for a coaching team. Coaches improve everyone’s performance on the field and, ultimately, the outcomes for the team.

One mistake I see companies make is trying to put their coaches in the game. I once worked with a company that decided to collapse its engineering organization by turning Engineering Managers into Managing Engineers, and oh, what a difference the word order makes. Managing Engineers are expected to have their hands on a keyboard most of the time. They’re super talented developers, so why not have them coding? There are two good reasons:

  1. These leaders are not honing the skills of leadership that the company will need later when they try to promote these leaders into roles where individual contributor skills aren’t what is needed.
  2. The employees on their teams aren’t getting the perspective and the political air cover they would get from leaders who could fully focus on the job. Instead, they compete with the work for the leader’s time.

This solution is an efficient one. It’s just not an effective one. Keep your coaches on the sidelines and use their afforded perspective to help the teams play better. These four key behaviors help leaders keep teams engaged, motivated, focused, performing, and innovating. If that isn’t a key goal for the leadership at your company, what is?

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Leading Forum
Sean Lemson is a leadership expert, executive and team performance coach and the founder of Motivated Outcomes, an organization devoted to improving performance, engagement, and leadership in today’s organizations. His new book is One Drop of Poison: How One Bad Leader Can Slowly Kill Your Company. Learn more at MotivatedOutcomes.com

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Bill Treasurer Truisms Uncommon Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:31 AM
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Approaching Leadership Excellence Through New Angles

Approaching Leadership Excellence

ABOUT 400 years ago, Isaac Newton probably experienced an epiphany when he figured out how prisms work. His experiments showed that when light hits glass at an angle, it not only slows down but also bends as it enters the glass and bends again when it exits, thus leaving the glass at a new angle. The physics of a prism can also be applied to leadership: In an agile work environment, it is valuable to slow down and reconsider which leadership angle to take in particular situations. The PRISM Model offers five angles to leading people and forms the bedrock of leadership excellence.

P = Purpose

People have an intrinsic need to know that what they do day in and day out has personal meaning for themselves and is meaningful to others; that what they do, in essence, has a positive impact on others and purpose. Most average leaders I have met can recite their company's mission statement but aren't necessarily in tune with their values – solid and unwavering values that drive them toward something bigger and serve as a lighthouse when faced with tough decisions. Excellent leaders live their personal and professional lives in alignment with their core values, which provide their employees with stability, transparency, and consistency. Their employees don't have to waste time and energy playing guessing games about their supervisor because they know from the outset what is important to them, and just as important, they know what contribution they make as the team or company strives toward this purpose. What is your purpose in life? Does it align with your core values? Have you shared it with your employees?

R = Relationships

Leadership excellence means building and fostering healthy relationships with employees and coworkers. This means taking responsibility for creating a climate where people enjoy coming to work, whether in a virtual setting or on-site. They feel safe not only in expressing their opinions but also know that their opinions are appreciated and valued by you and their coworkers. There is a climate where no negative gossiping or online chats about another person takes place. It's a climate where issues are not swept under the carpet but addressed openly, respectfully, and timely. Teams spend more time together from Monday to Friday than with their families. The workplace can be seen as an extended family. If people work day in and day out in a toxic environment – gossiping, lack of trust, hurting each other – they will not perform at their best. In fact, toxic work environments lead to quiet quitting, burnout, and increased resignations. When leaders have meaningful conversations with their employees, ask open questions, truly listen to them, and nip any toxicity (such as gossiping) in the bud, they are well on their way to fostering trust and building relationships.

I = Instilling Energy

Emotional contagion is a fact of life. We "infect "people with our energy – be it toxic or positive – within a matter of minutes. Research indicates that the person in the room with the highest power is the one who spreads the energy. Ideally, this is the leader. In some situations where a toxic team member has hijacked the team or derailed a meeting, this individual spreads the energy. In such cases, feelings of fear, anger, frustration, and intimidation are spread. If, however, the leader has built a climate of psychological safety and put a stop to toxicity, their energy is spread. Leaders need to be mindful of their energy when they enter a room or dial into a call. This will be instilled in their team if they are stressed, angry, or distracted. This will be instilled if they are open-minded, positive, and appreciative. Before entering a room or joining a call, reset your mindset to create the atmosphere you want to have.

S = Strength Spotting

It is a fact of life: the brain is programmed to spot the negative things first, a term which is called the negativity bias. We see the weaknesses and development areas of others before we see their strengths and positive attributes. But when we consciously look for our employees' strengths and give them a chance to use them on the job, studies show that engagement increases, stress is reduced, innovation and agile thinking is fostered, and self-confidence grows. What tasks are your employees performing when they are filled with energy, drive, and motivation? What do they do naturally? If you are unsure, have a conversation with your employees and ask them. Questions such as "What makes for a really good day on the job? ", "What kinds of things give you energy here at work? ", and "What are you doing when you are at your best? "are great door-openers to finding out more about your employees and strengthening your relationship with them.

M = Growth Mindset

Cultivating a growth mindset in employees is one of the biggest assets any leader can accrue in their team. A growth mindset is one where employees value feedback (vs. taking it as a personal attack), grow from setbacks (vs. blaming others for their failure), are open to challenges (vs. trying to avoid them), and learn from others (vs. being jealous of their success). Rome wasn't built in a day, nor is a growth mindset. Coaching employees and helping them shift from a fixed to a growth mindset takes time and patience. The return on investment, however, is enormous: psychological safety, self-confidence, trust, motivation, innovation, and engagement – just to name a few benefits – skyrocket.

In our fast-paced VUCA world, the PRISM Model offers five angles to leading people and forms the bedrock of leadership excellence. As Gen Z is entering the workforce, more employees are demanding a remote or hybrid work set-up, and the number of burnouts and quiet quitting are reaching unforeseen numbers. Today's leader is faced with unique challenges and opportunities. A PRISM approach – purpose, relationships, instilling energy, strength spotting, and a growth mindset – is, quite frankly, not rocket science. It allows leaders to approach leadership excellence from various angles and foster a climate where people enjoy showing up for work and making a valuable contribution.

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Leading Forum
Whitney Breer is an organizational consultant, trainer, executive coach, keynote speaker, and author of Leadership Starts with You. Specific tools for applying the PRISM Model and building leadership excellence can be found in her book. She is a renowned global expert in leadership, change management, and resiliency. She was born and raised in the US, has been based in Germany for the last 25 years, and considers the world her home. She has worked in over 20+ countries in the last decade and offers on-site and online support to organizations worldwide. Find out more about her at www.WhitneyBreer.com

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CEO Excellence Commanding Excellence

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:23 PM
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Good Power: Changing a Life. Changing Work. Changing the World.

Good Power

THE TIME TO THINK about power is before you get it. Power is part of leadership, and it can be used in the service of others or for personal gain.

In Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World, former Chairman and CEO of IBM Ginni Rometty redefines power as a way to “drive meaningful change in positive ways for ourselves, our organizations, and for the many, not just the few.”

Using her life experiences and lessons learned, she draws out principles that define good power. She observes that power that doesn’t produce tangible results is pointless. “Power is necessary to change things for the better, and that power can be good when it’s wielded respectfully, when it navigates tensions, and when it strives for progress over one person’s idea of perfection.”

Rometty divides the book into three parts that correspond with our own journey as we grow into adulthood: the power to change me, the power to change we (a group or organization), and the power to change us as a society.

She says that while some clients appreciated her perfectionist tendencies, it sometimes left her colleagues cold. “My drive for perfection often meant I only focused on what needed to change without acknowledging the positive. This could keep people from trusting themselves. It would take me a while to learn that just because I could point something out didn’t mean I should.”

The soul of good power is “being in service of others,” which she differentiates from the act of “serving others.”

Being in service of others is not a means to an end, but a means in and of itself. It manifests in how we act and the behaviors we choose in moments of preparation, interaction, and follow-up.

When we’re in service of people, we also speak to and treat them with respect, dignity, and civility. We emotionally connect, collaborate, ask, and listen. We have empathy, and we step into their shoes.

Being in service of others means delivering value, which involves self-control and empathy—understanding who you are serving. Listening is a big part of that.

I discovered that listening breeds knowledge, knowledge breeds creditability, and credibility earns trust that allows relationships to flourish.

And when delivering bad news, use a velvet hammer. How do we do that?

Speaking about tough truths in affirmative tones let critiques land constructively. So did beginning a difficult conversation by emphasizing something positive, as well as citing facts instead of opinion to support a controversial conclusion, and ending on a note of optimism and with potential solutions.

When we move beyond just developing ourselves to developing others, it signals that we are transitioning from the power of me to the power of we. We grow a company when we grow its people.

Being in service of others is the why and building belief is the how for bringing people on a change journey, she writes.

Building belief is about moving people to embrace an alternate reality for themselves and others, and then to willingly participate in creating it. It’s the first major step if you want people to change, because they have to understand and believe in the change.

When CEO Sam Palmisano stepped down at the end of 2011, there were several qualified replacements, including Rometty. The senior vice president of human resources told her, “ Ginni, if you want the opportunity to be CEO of IBM, don’t try to run for office. She says, “I translated his sage advice to mean put your focus on followership, not politics.”

One of the best chapters for me was Knowing What Must Change, What Must Endure. If we want to make changes for me or the we, we must understand that certain behaviors are required to bring about certain outcomes. New thinking brings about new behavior resulting in different outcomes. We must give people the tools—the how—to change.

When moments of reinvention arrive, innovating the “how” can be overlooked in favor of focusing on the “what.” Indeed it is not enough to just tell people to deliver a different outcome. We have to cocreate a new way of working, give people permission to change, and create an environment that encourages and rewards new behaviors and skills—all at scale.

In any transformation, balancing the old and new is always a challenge because it is hard for people to wrestle with this tension. Even with major changes, some things don’t change. “Transforming a really large entity also means reconciling the pace of change in the market with the rate and pace of change the organization can withstand.” In addition, “once we figure out what endures, even if it must be modernized, we have a platform from which we can bridge to the future.”

What doesn’t change?

If an organization is to meet the challenges of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself except the beliefs on which it bases all its policies and actions.

What is your foundation “upon which the hurricane of change” can happen?

When there are setbacks and critics, you need to have built some resilience.

Resilience results from a number of factors, but two in particular—relationships and attitude. Both are under our control.

The right relationships provide perspective, meaning they help us judge something’s importance, or see something from another, perhaps broader angle, which is essential for forward progress.

Attitude is how we choose to deal with the many challenges we face in a crucial moment of decision-making but also over time.

Rometty doesn’t ignore critics. She asks herself if they have legitimate points and anything she might learn from their perspective. “Critics may inform me, but they don’t define me.”

To help us in applying good power to the us—society—one way is to look “at big problems as big systems to be transformed.” Thinking systematically, “good power at scale can help build belief in a movement; cocreate new solutions; let go of what’s wrong; and modernize what’s right.”

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Indra Nooyi Frances Hesselbein

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:53 AM
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The Steward Leader: Giving the Gift of Lift

Gift of Lift

IN 2016, I was meeting with Gail Miller, one of the wealthiest women in the United States, as well as one of the most wise and generous. Gail was nearing completion of the transfer of her sole ownership in the Utah Jazz to a trust she had carefully designed to keep the team in Utah well into the future. During the course of reviewing various documents with her, I asked, “Gail, does it bother you at all to give away your ownership in the Jazz?”

Gail looked up from the documents and said flatly, “I don’t own the Jazz.” Her response surprised me and gave me pause. “But you actually do own the Jazz,” I replied. I will never forget her response.

“No. I don’t,” she reiterated, sitting back and looking me straight in the eye in a way that told me she knew exactly what she was saying and doing. “I’m a steward of the Jazz.”

Her simple yet powerful reply has reverberated in my mind ever since and launched me on a journey researching, studying, and exploring the essence of stewardship and how it can be a transformative and freeing way to both live and lead. At their essence, stewards are women and men who are fully invested in something bigger than themselves. They combine both deep personal engagement with a bigger-than-them transcendent perspective that allows them to make lasting impacts in the lives of others. In the course of looking at Gail’s life and the lives of other stewards I studied, I came to identify four unique and powerful ways in which stewards lead in a fundamentally different way.

1. Stewards Use a Because/Therefore Model for Life.

Because stewards have a clear knowledge of who they are, what they value, and what they believe, they are able to use a distinctive model for leading. Most of the non-steward world operates within an “if/then” mindset. In other words, if I do X, then Y will happen, or if I do A, then the world/others will do B. This mindset renders life mechanical, transactional, and outcome-based. In contrast, stewards lead with a “because/therefore” view of the world. This unique perspective makes life infinitely more relational, intentional, and transcendent. “Because” (transcendence) leads to “therefore” (deep personal investment). Their personal transcendence is the driver, and stewards are the agents, investing their energies in something bigger than themselves. The expectations are on the self, not on the outcome: because I value X, I expect myself to do Y. A because/therefore orientation also makes decision-making easier. As Roy Disney once said, “it’s easy to make decisions once you know what your values are.”

2. They Care More About Their Successors Than They Do Their Success.

One of the most distinctive characteristics of steward leaders is their connection with the timeline of life. They see their role as a temporary one. This perspective makes them both forward-thinking and openhanded, allowing them to take on goals and projects they cannot accomplish alone or within their own lifetimes. Stewards aren’t concerned only with how their group or organization functions while they are alive and in charge; they look to the life of their business, family, organization, community, and even their country after they are gone. This perspective makes them intentional about how they allocate their time, talent, and treasure. It also makes them generous and openhanded when it comes to investing their resources and encouraging others to do the same.

3. They Are All About Purpose, Not Possessions.

In the field of positive psychology, a major focus of research today is on the concept of purpose and how it affects the way we view and approach life. Researchers have come to the general consensus that purpose should be defined as follows: “Purpose is a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at once personally meaningful and at the same time leads to productive engagement with some aspect of the world beyond the self.” As you may note, within this modern definition of purpose, we find both of the building blocks of stewards. Transcendence involves the focus on “some aspect of the world beyond the self,” and investment relates to the “intention to accomplish something,” which leads to “productive engagement.” Steward leaders know that, unless we are incredibly careful, what we own tends to own us back. Whether it’s our businesses, our homes, properties, all come at a cost. Stewards are unique because they aren’t held down by anything because they are owned by nothing but their purpose. This makes it much easier for them to sell assets, change positions, allow others to get credit, or even step down, as long as their overarching purpose is advanced.

4. Steward Leaders Don’t Seek Balance. They Seek Counterbalance.

Counterbalances are used in a wide range of everyday devices, such as elevators, cranes, drawbridges, and even metronomes. The purpose of a counterbalance, or counterweight, is to provide a strong opposing force so that a machine can more effectively accomplish the task for which it is designed. Far from acting to limit or diffuse its opposing force, a counterbalance is meant to bring added strength, focus, and direction to the force it is countering. Steward leaders counterbalance transcendence (their why) with investment (their how) and allow the force of each to magnify the other. In addition, because stewards adopt the long-term perspective that goes along with taking on something bigger than themselves, their lives acquire a deliberate cadence, which allows them to move at a measured and intentional pace without burning out.


The path of the steward leader is both challenging and rewarding. It is, at the same time, both deeply personal and outwardly expressive. Those who embrace the way of the steward leader not only find the peace that comes from having a clear direction that comes from counterbalancing transcendence and investment, they also leave an indelible mark on the lives of their employees, friends, families, and communities—and on the world itself.

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Leading Forum
David R. York is an attorney, CPA, and managing partner of York Howell & Guymon, named an Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Company. He is the author of The Gift of Lift Harnessing the Power of Stewardship to Elevate the World. He has also co-authored two books—Entrusted: Building a Legacy That Lasts and Riveted: 44 Values that Change the World. He has given a Ted Talk and is a frequent national speaker. More information can be found at www.davidryork.com

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The Focus of Leadership Our Stewardship Responsibility

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:30 AM
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Leadership Truisms: Road-Tested Lessons for Leading During Complicated Times

Bill Treasurer Truisms

THESE are exceptionally complicated times to be a leader. The world is fraught with touchy political divisions, economic disparities, generational tensions, and racial disharmonies. Magnifying the challenges are the ever-shifting dynamics of today’s workplace. More leaders are leading remote teams across larger geographic distances, presenting unique challenges in terms of onboarding new employees, giving performance feedback, building esprit de corps, and nurturing healthy relationships.

The traditional stability of consistently applied practices and processes has been upended. Now individual exceptions and customized deals are common, tailored to flexibly accommodate each person’s extenuating life realities. It’s a struggle to treat everyone fairly yet individually. Letting one person work from home three days a week to care for an immuno-compromised parent will look like good leadership to that person, but it will smack of favoritism to the healthy single person required to be onsite every day. Leaders will simultaneously be seen as exceedingly fair or unfair, depending on who benefits from policy exceptions that today’s realities require leaders to allow.

Despite being a particularly challenging time to lead, leaders can use some road-tested tactics to navigate through today’s choppy waters. Leadership fitness is a function of three disciplines: leading yourself, leading others, and leading work.

Leading Yourself

Leadership starts with self-awareness and self-discipline. You’ve got to know what your good at, and what you’d be wise to hand off to others. You’ve got to have a deep value system that can help you weather tough people and situations. You’ve got to manage and prioritize your time. If you can’t lead yourself, what qualifies you to lead others? Here are some two-word truisms that will help you lead yourself well:

Know Thyself: Leadership starts with self-awareness. Identify the formative experiences that helped shape your beliefs about leadership. Who were your earliest leadership role models? What did you learn by watching them? Also identify your sunshine and shadows: your strengths and the shadows those strengths cast when you overuse them. For example, are you a persuasive communicator? But does that cause you to often hog the limelight?

Model Principles: Having deeply held values leads to inner strength. Leadership is hard and having strong inner character will help you withstand inevitable headwinds. Be clear about what you stand for — and against. List your deepest held values. Which ones do you embody? Which ones do you need to improve on?

Aspire Higher: Leadership has everything to do with elevating performance — your own and others. In big ways and in small, you should be improving every day. Doing that means setting stretch goals, investing in your own development, and actively seeking out feedback from those impacted by your leadership.

Practice Humility: People want to be led by leaders who are confident and humble. Always remember that you’re no better than the people you’re privileged to lead. Never be arrogant. Practice humility by asking people for their input and then listening to, and heeding, their advice.

Cultivate Composure: Leaders bear a heavy burden of responsibility, which is stressful. Often that stress gets externalized in the form of anger. Don’t be a hothead. When you freak out, people lose confidence in you. Start your day with some quiet reflection. Ask yourself, what good do I want to do in the world today with my leadership influence?

Leading Others

Leaders can’t, and shouldn’t, do everything themselves. Your success as a leader is contingent upon how successful you help others become. Focus your leadership influence on helping each individual you work with to add more value — literally help them become more valuable. That requires investing time in their development, giving them your focused attention, and drawing out the leader in them through your coaching and feedback. Here’s how:

Trust First: Trust bonds followers to leaders. Yet too many leaders fold their arms waiting for people to first prove that they can be trusted. They start from a place of skepticism and guardedness. Switch the equation. Focus first on being worthy of the trust of others. Never shade or couch the truth. Keep people updated and informed. Deliver on your commitments.

Create Safety: Innovation is the lifeblood of business. People will extend themselves, experiment, and take risks if you make it safe to do so. Don’t bite people’s heads off when they make forward-falling mistakes. Don’t intimidate or stoke people’s fears. Invite feedback and thank people when they give it to you. Psychological safety is just as important as physical safety.

Nurture Talent: Developing your people is a prime responsibility. Invest at least 15 minutes every two weeks with each person who reports to you. Don’t focus on the status of projects and tasks. Instead, check in with them, asking how they’re doing, how things are on the home front, and what you can do for them. The 15 minutes will dramatically strengthen the relationship and build mutual respect and loyalty.

Promote Inclusion: If you care about great results, you’ll promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Your job is to foster an environment where every person can bring their full selves to work and be totally engaged. Welcome, encourage, and foster diversity in all its expressions.

Leading Work

Leading yourself and others will help you ensure the final area of leadership fitness: leading work. Leaders are judged by the results they get. The whole point of leadership is to produce positive outcomes that didn’t exist before. You and your team need to deliver effectively and consistently. Leadership has everything to do with results. Here’s how to get them:

Love Business: Business can be intimidating. The more experience you gain, the more business-minded you’ll become, and the less intimidating business will be. Talk to leaders you admire. Have them share the big decisions they faced and the factors they considered when facing them. Join a professional association and broaden your network. Keep an ongoing journal to document your leadership lessons.

Master Management: Great managers make for great leaders. The more you master management fundamentals, the more equipped you’ll be to face complex situations. Set clear plans, goals, and milestones. Intently review progress. Equip people with the tools and resources they need. Provide coaching and feedback. Reward stellar performance. Be fiscally disciplined.

Lead Up: Support your bosses’ success. Earn their respect by being candid, keeping them updated, and giving them helpful feedback. Look for stuff that they might be missing. When they give you an assignment, overdeliver. You don’t have to be a kiss-up or yes-person. You can be loyal to your boss and loyal to yourself at the same time.

Despite being a particularly challenging time to be in a role that has always been challenging, if you’re disciplined about leading yourself, if you honor the responsibilities that come with leading others, and if you consistently produce great results by leading work, you’ll not only enjoy leading, but you’ll be fully fit to lead!

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Leading Forum
Bill Treasurer is the Chief Encouragement Officer of Giant Leap Consulting, Inc., a courage-building consulting firm. Bill is the author of six leadership books, including his newest, Leadership Two Words at a Time. For over three decades, Bill has designed, developed, and delivered comprehensive leadership programs for such renowned organizations as NASA, Accenture, eBay, Lenovo, UBS Bank, Southern Company, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to founding Giant Leap, Bill served as Accenture’s first full-time internal executive coach. He is also a former captain of the US High Diving Team and performed over 1500 dives from heights that scaled to over 100 feet. Learn more at giantleapconsulting.com

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Leaders Greatest Return Sponsor Effect

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:03 AM
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Leadership Lessons from Coach Nick Saban

Lessons Nick Saban

ON August 25, Chris Low posted an ESPN interview with 70-year-old Nick Saban, who just signed a new $93.6 million contract extension that runs through the 2030 season.

Here are a few of the highlights that provide us with some leadership lessons:

Think like a freshman. “You have to be flexible. I think that’s one of the most important things about competitive sports … If you don’t sort of study the game and know the impact of these things and use them to your advantage, you’re going to just completely get bypassed by a lot of folks.”

Success is a choice. Take responsibility for your choices. “I heard it said that none of us are born winners, and none of us are born losers. We’re all born choosers. So choosing the right things that are going to help you be successful ... that doesn’t really change.”

Focus on what you can become. “The one thing, because of the brand that we have here, that players can see, is they can earn a tremendous amount of money because of the brand and because of the image that they can create using that brand to promote themselves, which has happened. The players that we’re recruiting are not coming here because of the money we’re giving them to come here. They’re coming here because of what they can earn being here because of the history that we have of guys creating value for themselves.”

Hold yourself to a high standard. “I wouldn’t want to coach someplace that didn’t have a high standard.”

Good leadership means continual growth. “I think I’ve become a better teacher. I think yelling and screaming at players in this day and age really goes in one ear and out the other. If you want them to really resonate on what you’re saying, you just need to teach it, and sometimes, it works better if you do it individually than if you do it in front of other people. That’s not something I considered in years past, several years past.”

Build a good team. “We don’t have a lot of what I call energy vampires, guys that take all your time because they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do. We have a team that has bought in, and they’re all trying to do the right thing.”

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4th and Goal Every Day Uncommon Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:31 AM
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Leading with Heart: Five Conversations that Unlock Creativity, Purpose, and Results

Leading with Heart

THERE ARE FIVE core characteristics that help leaders connect at an authentic human level with their people: they are aware of other people’s needs, they confront their people’s fears, they understand their own desires and what drives their people, they leverage their gifts, and they connect with purpose.

These leaders lead with heart. They are “simply the most relentlessly curious, caring, and insightful about themselves and their people.” John Baird and Edward Sullivan explain in Leading with Heart that they do it by engaging in conversations about what we really need to feel safe and creative.

The five questions are designed to remove the barriers that have kept us from leading with heart:

1. What do you need to be at your best?

When a houseplant wilts, we don’t yell at it, offer it more money, or put it on a performance improvement plan. We give it more water, move it closer to the sun, and make sure it’s getting the nutrients it needs until the leaves perk up and regain their color. The same goes for us as people.

To lead with heart means we need to have conversations about not only our physical (diet, sleep, and exercise) and emotional needs but also the physical space we function in—the environment. Often our belief systems keep us from doing what we should be doing to be sure our baseline needs are being met. And then we ac out. “Some clear tells that we ourselves ou our teams are not getting their needs met: irritability, disagreements, anxiety, lack of motivation, and lack of creativity, all of which make us susceptible to being triggered into fear responses.”

2. Which fears are holding you back?

We create negative or self-limiting stories about ourselves. By uncovering what frightens us and by getting radically serious about the fears of our teams, we can begin ridding ourselves of blocks, untruths, and old defeatist stories that weigh on us, as well as all the unhelpful behaviors we engage in when we are triggered in response to our fears.

What are my fears is the most challenging conversation to have and to create change around. Naming your fear(s) and embracing them in order to choose different behaviors is the first step.

People around us are acting out of fear all the time. Compassion and curiosity for that fear are your first line of defense.

Your own knowledge that the person is coming at you or being hurtful in some way because they are committed to being fearful helps your brain avoid getting triggered into your favorite fear response, which keeps the situation between you from escalating.

3. Which desires drive you, and which might derail you?

Our deepest desires can be incredible sources of motivation. Feeling like we are winning, like we are contributing, like we have influence—these can get us out of bed in the morning. But if we let our desires get out of hand, we can get derailed.

Leaders who fall from grace most often have a desire problem because they satisfy a short-term desire without considering the long-term consequences. We can create blindspots around our desires as we rationalize what feels good to us.

It is crucial for leaders to be very clear about what their values mean in practice. Transparency can be conflated with having no privacy. Honesty can be conflated with oversharing. And inclusion can be conflated with consensus.

4. What are your greatest gifts?

The greatest leaders have an uncanny ability to find the unrecognized gifts in their people. They see past what people think they are good at and find something instead that they are great at. Our gifts sometimes come from curious places. From our grief, our flaws, and even our darkest moments.

Sometimes our flaws are the overuse of our gifts. When a gift is overused, we and those around us fail to derive the potential that is there to contribute.

You will find your gifts and superpowers in your painful experiences. “Many of the most successful and impactful adults had childhoods that were compromised in some way by neglect or abuse. The first step in claiming the gifts we derive from painful experiences is to reframe the stories we tell ourselves about those experiences.”

Leading with heart includes helping people see their own gifts and expand their sense of what they are capable of.

Social scientists have been telling us for years that positive reinforcement is the best way to get others to adopt new behaviors. Yes, we really are just waiting for someone to say, ‘Good job!’”

5. What is your purpose?

Conversations around purpose are really about what impact we seek to have on the world. What am I (or we) here to do? Who am I (or are we) here to serve?

Conversations around purpose are perhaps the most important because while we have conversations about our needs, fears, desires, and gifts, if we don’t have a clear sense of purpose, “we don’t have a place to put all that clarity and energy.”

Someone who is living without their critical needs being met is often not able to make space in their life for service to others, which is what finding your purpose is all about.

These five conversations become your organizational culture. Your culture is a “manifestation of how you as an organization help each other see and understand your needs, fears, desires, gifts, and purpose.

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You Don’t Need a Cape to Be a Hero to Your People

Heroic Leadership

HERO can be a relative term.

It can conjure images of stilled action in the pages of a comic book or computer-generated images on the big screen of good versus evil.

For those who live in the real world, the relevance is much more practical and actual.

Heroes lift the souls of those who read about their stories of bravery and the causes they champion at every turn of the page. Villainy must be vanquished, just as the challenges in everyday life we all face.

No cape required.

There are nine “superpowers” each aspiring leader can employ that will help him or her be the champion people need and deserve.

1. The Power of Vision

It all starts with something better. Or, at least, it should. That’s the power of vision.

Vision is simply a snapshot, or image, of a preferable future. It’s the way things can be, ought to be, and will be, if impassionedly pursued.

The concept of heroes and their sense of idealism represents something more. Something better. It can help us see beyond the now into our best tomorrow.

Vision is the ability and awareness that prompted non-powered individuals to create, invent, and otherwise shape the future in truly remarkable ways.

2. The Strength to Win

No matter the story, foe, or situation, each hero, we believe, will eventually prove to be the champion we all knew he or she could be. The certainty and anticipation of victory is tied to the strength every hero displays, even in the face of dire straits or great adversity. This is just one reason heroes are so celebrated and revered.

The strength to win is an attitude and a spirit that will not allow a person to live under the circumstances but rise above them with a resilient refusal to lose.

3. The Value of Trust

Trust is not automatic. It must be earned, not given.

We trust another because we learn, over time, that he or she is worthy of it. We know they will do the right thing, every time. We trust those who come through, over and over, and we freely relate with, absent of any doubt, those who work hard to protect and cherish that confidence.

We confide in another because we’ve given ourselves permission to do so. Otherwise, we simply look elsewhere or, if given no choice, offer as much trust as the situation deserves and hope for the best.

For the heroic leader, trust is the foundation on which everything else is built. When trust is secure, communication is healthy, productivity is higher, as is morale, and the opportunities for group success are more readily available.

4. The Price of Prowess

You have to give up to go up—John Maxwell. Leadership is a skill that can be taught and developed. It’s not magic. It’s not mystically bestowed. Every leader possesses some prowess, but it’s not easily or lazily expanded.

Measure of influence is determined by the current degree of leadership. We all have a ceiling that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, remain permanent. Many never leave what could be described as entry-level or positional.

Don’t get stuck. Challenge your competency and work to grow.

5. The Passion of a Just Cause

Everyone needs a cause. Everyone needs a calling bigger than self, a passion that will not only energize their life but change someone else’s. Without it, the sense of merely existing takes hold, and one simply takes up space until the end.

Not enough are driven by a strong sense of mission, purpose, or a reason that produces a call that must be answered with enthusiasm and passion on a daily basis.

While each life has a definite purpose, causes can be presented at various times in alignment with one’s mission and calling.

Every life is a story waiting to be told. A great commitment to a great cause will build a great life and speak volumes to the world about who you are, what you believe, and the difference you want to make.

Never make a first-class commitment to a second-class cause.

6. The Reality of Hope

You can survive 40 days without food, three days without water, and eight minutes without air. You can’t honestly survive a single second without hope.

Hope is as vital as the air we breathe. Without it, life becomes an exercise in finding as many ways as possible to cope or just get by. People no longer thrive. They merely survive.

Every leader can authentically present the reality of hope that will spur their team forward despite, and even because of, hard seasons.

7. The Honor of Fighting Fair

Conflict is inevitable. It can’t be avoided. When people attempt to, with a head in the sand approach, the conflict that inevitably surfaces is worsened by a lack of readiness.

The typical manager spends 25–40% of his or her time dealing with workplace conflict. Another term for this is putting out fires.

While conflict can’t be eluded, it doesn’t have to be ruinous. Disagreements, if handled properly, can make a team better, not bitter.

This requires attacking the issues, however, not each other.

8. The Leveling of Calm

No one gets to choose when moments of stress and difficulty occur. While we can’t control when bad moments will strike, one can control what to do with them and what happens next. This is what separates the mature leader, the heroic leader, from the average person who never rises above impulsively reacting to bad situations instead of carefully responding.

9. The Heart to Serve

Heroic leadership is not power over people, but power with people. It’s paradoxical, but true greatness comes from proving to be the least, in so much as expressing a willingness to consider others as much as self. People hate pretense and can usually see through a façade. Serving others, especially those you lead, must be genuine. The main question is, “Do I care about the people I’ve been blessed to lead, or do I only care about getting the job done?”

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Leading Forum
Jim Davis is the author of Heroic Leadership: You Don’t Need a Cape to Be a Hero - 9 Superpowers For Us Mere Mortals. Davis is a professional speaker, trainer, and facilitator involved in training, in one aspect or another, for over 25 years. His passion for developing people has found him everywhere from the board room, classroom, the federal prison, and many places in between. He is a graduate of Southwestern University and holds a master’s degree in Leadership. He lives in Currituck, NC with his wife Karen and daughter Abigail. Visit JimDavisLive.com for more information or how to book him for your event.

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The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest

CEO Excellence

WHAT differentiates the best CEOs from the rest? There are timeless mindsets and practices that make the difference. In CEO Excellence, McKinsey partners Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, and Vikram Malhotra, spell out these mindsets and practices. The culmination of what they found leads to the fact that these leaders help others to achieve things they never imagined they’d be able to. So there are lessons for all leaders at any level in this book.

Through their research—they found 146 CEOs that excelled in the CEO role to study but then cast a wider net to round it out to 200 top-performing CEOs—they determined that there are six mindsets that differentiated the best leaders of the twenty-first century from the rest.

These mindsets enable them to navigate the dominant features of their environment—new competition, disruptive change, digitization, pressing social and environmental issues, or economic meltdowns—with wild success, while others wallow in mediocrity. The simple fact is that the top of the pack think differently, which causes them to take profoundly different actions day in and day out.

The Six Mindsets

The best CEOs may not be the best in these mindsets, but they are the best at integrating all of these responsibilities simultaneously. “For a CEO, what’s important is that you can balance everything together,” said KBC’s Johan Thijs. Assa Abloy’s Johan Molin added, “As CEO, you need to realize that you’re only one person, and you’re not the best person because you’re such a generalist. You’re not going to be not trying to be the smartest of the smart, but you can give good advice, facilitate, and encourage people to work.”

Each mindset is associated with three practices.

Setting the Direction

Rather than hedging their bets, the best CEOs are bold. “They’re less a taker of their fate and more a shaper—constantly looking for and acting on opportunities that bend the curve of history.”

Vision: They reframe what success means. “The best CEOs often dig back into a company’s history to find out what originally made it successful and then take that central idea and expand it in ways that open up new opportunities.” They add, “what matters to them is to have a clear and simply articulated North Star for the company that redefines success, influences decisions, and inspires people to act in desired ways.”

Strategy: Move early and often. “Excellent CEOs are always looking to the next S-curve while ensuring the current one is delivered on.”

Resource Allocation: Budgets are not based on last year’s budget. Resources are zero-based and then solved for the whole. “No investment is taken as a given—every investment is scrutinized, alternatives explored, and approval justified by how it helps deliver against the company’s strategy and vision.”

Aligning the Organization

Once the direction is set, execution is not inevitable. The problem is more than intellectual. It is an emotional one. “You have to fix both sides as the CEO: The easy part is technical; the difficult part is people.”

Culture: Align the culture: reshape the work environment, make it personal, make it meaningful, and measure what matters. CEO must embody the change.

Organizational Design: “When a CEO sees an organization tilted one way, there’s a temptation to tilt the opposite way—and, like the pendulum of a clock, the swing back and forth between the two polarities is perpetuated. The best CEOs rarely make radical swings from one extreme to the other.”

Talent Management: “Your people decisions are really where all your leverage is,” says GE CEO Larry Culp. You must clearly define high-value roles, look for the left tackle positions that protect and enable value to be created, find the unusual suspects, and actively build the bench.

Mobilizing Through Leaders

The best CEOs and less concerned about what their leaders do together and more concerned about how their leaders work together. “They obsess with solving for the team’s psychology and let the mechanics of coordination and execution follow.”

Team Composition: “A group of high performers only become truly high performing if its members are complementary and connected to one another and not simply working side by side.” The best CEOs staff the team with an eye to aptitude and attitude, act fast but fairly regarding those who don’t belong, stay connected while keeping their distance, and build a leadership coalition beyond their immediate team.

Teamwork Effectiveness: Those on the top team have a responsibility to the organization over their own units. “I’m on the team so I can represent the company to my function or business.”

Operating Rhythm: “When a CEO creates a clear and effective operating rhythm, every member of the top team can sync the rhythm of their specific area with that of the company as a whole.”

As CEO, you have a 30,000-foot view of the organization. You need to make sure your team members have the advantage of that perspective. “If the CEO is not making the gears mesh together, dysfunctions quickly become hardwired.” From Microsoft’s Satya Nadella:

People say the job is lonely. I realized that it’s an information asymmetry problem. Nobody who works for you sees what you see. And nobody you work for sees what you see. That’s the fundamental problem of a CEO, which is you see it all, and nobody else around you sees it, so you can get very frustrated.

Engaging the Board

“The best CEOs help the board chair run the board so that the directors can help the CEO run the business.”

Board Relationships: The best CEOs build and maintain trust by choosing radical transparency, building a strong relationship with the board chair, reaching out to individual directors, and exposing the board to management. “Trust is not about charisma or friendship. Trust is based on delivery,” says David Thodey CEO of Telstra.

Board Capabilities: Be clear about the role the board should play and make sure they understand the business. Encourage the chair to evaluate board performance.

Board Meetings: Focus on the future. Serve on a board yourself to get a perspective on what it is to be a board member. Never get involved in board functions.

Connecting with Stakeholders

“Research shows that a company’s relationships with external stakeholders can influence as much as 30 percent of corporate earnings.”

Social Purpose: Be sure your organization has a powerful reason for why they exist. We live in a time where stakeholders want to hear the CEO or organization take a stand on various social issues. “The best CEOs don’t confuse their personal passions for their company’s principles.”

Stakeholder Interaction: Getting it right is not always easy, but the best CEOs share these commonalities: they contain the time spent Outside, they understand the other party’s why, they gather as many good ideas as possible from the interactions, and they maintain a single narrative across all stakeholders. Former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly explains:

The key with any stakeholder is to get the “say-do” ratio right: the ratio between what we say we were going to do and what we actually did. That’s how you get credibility. And if you’re doing what you are saying you will do, they’ll actually want to see less of you. They’ll want you to be spending your time working on the business and delivering on your commitments.

Moments of Truth: Have a crisis playbook that you can tailor to each situation. When a crisis hits, maintain a long-term perspective to keep driving the business forward. Ahold Delhaize’s CEO Dick Boer says there are three lessons for CEOs when dealing with a crisis:

First, do not chair or lead your crisis team. Let them report out to you. This gives you the space and time to oversee all the elements of the business, not only the crisis. Second, show confidence in your organization—show that you’re in control, that you know what you’re doing, and that you’ll take care of your people and your customers. Third, think of what’s next even when the storm is still around you, because there’ll be opportunities and other situations you have to manage as a consequence of the crisis that you might not have thought about.

Managing Personal Effectiveness

Leading yourself is essential to be physically and psychologically fit, and not even the best CEOs have this figured out. One executive coach said, “No one has ever lived to outwork the job. It will always be bigger than you.”

Office: Managing your time and energy involves keeping a tight but loose schedule, compartmentalizing, infusing energy into your routine, and tailoring your support staff to your needs. “With so much on a CEO’s plate, one of the most challenging aspects of the job from an emotional perspective is to move from meeting to meeting without letting what happened in one spill over to sabotage the next.”

Leadership Model: Show a consistency of character—authenticity. “Being consistent doesn’t mean that CEOs should be inflexible. Without betraying their core values, the best are willing and able to modify how they lead if the circumstances demand i. It’s important to figure out what kind of CEO the company needs.”

Perspective: Stay grounded. The best CEOs don’t; make it all about them. They embrace servant leadership. They create a kitchen cabinet that can speak truth to power and keep them humble, and they display gratitude for the opportunity to sit in the CEO chair.

CEO Excellence Chart

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Simple Truths of Leadership

Simple Truths of Leadership

COMMON sense never seems to be common practice. To address this problem, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley wrote Simple Truths of Leadership—52 of them.

We wrote this book because we know a lot of people aren’t applying commonsense principles in the workplace. The format of the book is simple. On the left page, we identify a Simple Truth about servant leadership or trust. On the right page, we describe the puzzling lack of the use of the concept and briefly explain why it is important. The final element is a call to action for readers—“Making Common Sense Common Practice”—where we break down the concept into ideas that leaders can easily apply on the job.

Some of the more memorable truths are:

#1: Servant leadership is the best way to achieve both great results and great relationships.

#5: The key to developing people is to catch them doing something right.

#7: When people are off track, don’t reprimand them—redirect them.

#9: Effective servant leaders realize they have to use different strokes for different folks.

#12: Create autonomy through boundaries.

#13: You get from people what you expect.

#23: Servant leaders love feedback.

#30: Someone must make the first move to extend trust. Leaders go first.

#33: Fear is the enemy of trust.

#41: #Trust is always trending. Doing the right thing never goes out of style.

#44: The most important part of leadership is what happens when you’re not there.

#48: Building trust is a journey, not a destination.

#50: Apologizing is not necessarily an admission of guilt, but it is an admission of responsibility.

The only truth that I think needs further explanation is #46: “People don’t resist change; they resist being controlled.” It’s true. If people feel controlled, they will resist. And their prescription is spot on: “It is important that they know the reasons the change is needed and the anticipated advantage of effectively implementing it.” Absolutely. People are more likely to change when they have faith in the promised outcome—the why.

It is interesting, though, as studies have demonstrated, people who have had life-threatening heart conditions, when told that they need to change their lifestyle and eating habits, don’t. In his book Change or Die, Alan Deutschman tells us that Edward Miller of John Hopkins University has reported that if you “look at people after coronary-artery bypass grafting two years later, ninety percent of them have not changed their lifestyle.” They would rather die than change even though they are fully aware of the stakes. Perhaps the Simple Truth should be, “People are likely to resist change when they don’t know the why of the change.”

The problem, of course, is that with all 52 of the rules, we know these things intellectually, but making them a part of how we lead is difficult because it requires some introspection and intentional forethought. And then action. You know, change. That often seems harder than the status quo. Or, we begin to make the change but tire of the effort.

Nevertheless, we all benefit by reviewing these truths and, better yet, discussing them with our peers and co-workers. We can’t fix what we don’t think about. And we can use the support of others. These 52 Simple Truths will help us to move in the right direction.

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What Does Equitable Leadership Look Like?

Equitable Leadership

DURING the pandemic, one of us became a bit of a Star Trek fan. Minal was never really into science fiction, but she ran out of shows to watch and found herself intrigued when Stacey Abrams, who is famously a Trekkie, said that Voyager was her favorite Star Trek show, even though Deep Space Nine is considered the political allegory. Still, Abrams cited Voyager, and we can’t help thinking it was because of Captain Janeway. In Voyager, women finally had a realistic representation of female leadership aboard a Star Trek vessel, one that was determined and decisive but also empathic and willing to listen.

Still, Janeway doesn’t seem like such a big deal until Minal had finished watching all the Voyager episodes and decided to dip into Star Trek: The Next Generation (referred to as TNG among Trekkies, we’re told). The first season is almost shocking in how Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard carries himself. He’s brash and bossy and vents his frustration by shouting at children, particularly poor Wesley. In Picard, the recent revival of the Star Trek franchise, it’s clear the character evolves since season one of TNG. But we don’t think Captain Janeway would need to evolve as much if they revived her character. In fact, she’s almost a prescient paragon of what good leadership looks like in the 21st century.

For decades, outdated models of Western leadership have prevailed, primarily centering White culture and male energy: someone who’s certain of himself, who has all the answers, who takes up space, shows no weakness, and knows how to win. But in a world turned upside down — by a pandemic, by climate change, by a reckoning with systemic injustice — what does winning even look like now?

Leaders have been getting an inkling that things are changing, that the old tools aren’t working. They have tried to lead their staff through these changes by emphasizing we are more alike than different, that anyone who works hard can succeed here, and have been befuddled when staff respond with outrage or anger.

So what exactly is going on?

The definition and expectations of leadership have changed. Talented staff no longer want a general leading them into battle; they want a coach nurturing the best out of each of them. They want someone with the courage to be vulnerable and say, “I don’t know, but I’m committed to figuring it out with you.”

They want an equitable leader. Someone who sees the system. Someone who is not tolerant of difference but rather so comfortable with it that they are willing to embrace it and make it a feature, not a bug of the workplace. They want someone who understands that great organizations encourage everyone to play to their strengths instead of insecurely asking everyone to fit into a mold of the “ideal” employee.

However, our brains are wired to feel threatened by difference. In The Power Manual, Cyndi Suarez writes:

The concept of difference is central to interactions in relationships of inequality. Humans have used differences to value, divide, and structure society—as with race, gender, class, age, and sexuality. One’s relationship to difference impacts one’s interactions, either reinforcing these structures of value or interrupting them. The supremacist approach to power offers two options for dealing with difference: ignore it or view it as cause for separation. A liberatory approach views differences as strengths and entertains interdependence as an option.

How does one begin to nurture a liberatory approach to power?

By examining your relationship to difference. Not surface-level differences—like a disagreement in approach or process to employ, the kind of difference that challenges your worldviews, your beliefs, and values. Leaders must navigate and embrace the latter to create inclusive and equitable environments where everyone thrives. And as Jessica has discovered through her work coaching leaders, this requires a higher degree of emotional intelligence, specifically, emotional self-awareness and the ability to self-regulate in the moment. The good news is you can build these muscles with intentional and consistent practice.

Normalizing discomfort for yourself and your organization is critical. Why? Because experiencing deep differences often equates to deep discomfort, which triggers your brain’s fight or flight mechanism. In this mode, critical reasoning goes offline. You react out of habit verse skillfully responding from a place of choice. The work of the equable leader is to thoughtfully respond in the face of discomfort and to demonstrate openness for deep difference.

Equitable leaders are also skilled at seeing systems and understanding interdependence. While valuing difference is the first step in the process of developing “system sight,” leaders can hone their vision by understanding their own relationship to the systems they are in. The tool Minal uses to facilitate this understanding with leaders is the Group Identity Wheel, developed by DEI practitioners and executive coaches Sukari Pinnock-Fitts and Amber Mayes. The wheel helps individuals understand themselves in all their complexity and positions their identity in relation to systems and power. It also allows them to understand both their marginalization and their privilege. This is vital to being an engaged and equitable leader. If a leader is interested in being an ally to people without the same level of privilege, then they must ask themselves, “How can I lift up the voices that may be struggling to be heard over mine in this organization?”

This can be uncomfortable, which is why emotional intelligence is critical, particularly the stamina to do difficult things. It can be tempting to duck one’s head in the sand and simply believe that the outside world will not intrude upon your company. But ignoring reality makes you a poor role model for the courageous conversations we need to have if we really want to design a more equitable world where everyone thrives.

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Leading Forum
Minal Bopaiah is the author of Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives. She is the founder of Brevity & Wit, a strategy + design firm that combines human-centered design, behavior change science and the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility to help organizations transform themselves and the world. Bopaiah has written for the Stanford Social Innovation Review and The Hill and has been a featured guest on numerous podcasts and shows, including the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU. She has also been a keynote speaker for many conferences, inspiring thousands with her credible, authentic, and engaging talks.

Jessica Zucal is a Senior Principal with Evans Consulting. As a change and transformation expert she works with leaders at the individual, team, and organization levels to build capacity for change and establish enabling conditions for success. Jessica is a NeuroLeadership trained coach and certified EQ-I 2.0 practitioner.

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Overriding Our Instincts in Order to Become Caring Leaders

Leading with Love

WE OFTEN THINK of ourselves as good leaders — or at least somewhat good. Afterall, we got this far in our careers by following our instincts, practicing what we learned, and applying appropriate business strategies. But are we leading? Truly leading people? Before we answer that question, let’s think about what’s really happening.

Over the course of a career, we gain a myriad of tools and tips on how to lead. It’s easy for us to deduce that implementing everything we’ve learned has gotten us where we are now. We follow the acronyms, rules, and checklists we’ve learned from the innumerable books we’ve read, classes and symposiums we’ve attended, and mentors whose wisdom we’ve sought. We rely on this vast collection to get us through the daily challenges.

Let’s call this methodology what it is: a recipe for leadership. We seek these quick fixes to leadership dilemmas like we’re shopping on Amazon.com and expecting next-day delivery, especially if we’re new leaders. Perhaps it’s because as managers, we face a horde of challenges. Bottom-line pressures, competitive marketplaces, and maybe a little self-doubt. We’re forced into decisions that answer a time crunch but do little to nurture high-performing organizational cultures. So, we rely on the leadership recipe.

This “formula for leadership” approach occurs at all levels. Executives at the highest level of the company are quick to check the big boxes. Did I send out a monthly newsletter? Did I host a strategic planning offsite or a town hall? Did I say hello to a stranger in the cafeteria? Mid-level directors and managers don’t fare well either. They’re focused on getting the job done, meeting deadlines, analyzing data, and meeting quarterly performance goals. They rely on instincts, while the organization’s culture continues to support mediocre performance.

Our brain loves the recipe approach. The human brain is a miracle of survival and, from a psychological and evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. We have a human need for steadiness and predictability. We like consistency. When the brain performs its neural magic, it creates a pathway that can quickly become our default way of thinking. The result is the brain is very comfortable with the knowledge it’s already mastered. These neural pathways and leadership formulas make us feel safe, and we become comfortable and confident with our expertise. We trust what we know, and we shun new ways of thinking.

Recipes are, by definition, detailed processes that allow us to get to a final product — and voila, mission accomplished. They’re at least partially designed to reduce uncertainty and stress. And while they admittedly have some value, they don’t account for the human aspects that yield high performance. They don’t have an answer for how to build an emotional connection with the people that we lead. To accomplish that as leaders, we must stray from our comfort zone, override those instincts, and start caring. Really caring, not just saying that we do.

Veering from our path of coziness makes us feel unsafe and vulnerable. Straying into the uncertainty of caring is uncomfortable. But when we fail to do this as leaders, we fall short of what leadership really is — letting go and getting real. True leaders are about inspiration, not expertise. Relying on past prescribed practices relinquishes us to stay on autopilot. We have no authentic connection to those we lead. Taking an exit ramp from those instincts and the recipe approach may be the most meaningful step we’ll ever take towards really leading.

Here’s how to make that swerve:

1. Start with self-reflection. Challenge yourself to expand your thinking capacity. Begin with mindfulness or meditation exercises that allow you to descend deep within yourself to assess what’s really important to you. As you become more comfortable with who you are, you’ll become more approachable and connected with others.

2. Try something completely new. Take a pottery course or learn to play an instrument. Read more fiction and let your mind wander. This will help your brain develop new neural conduits that expand the way you think and the way you experience the world. This exercises the imaginative portions of the brain and opens doors to prospective solutions.

3. Let go of the control you think you have. Do you have millennials working for you? Here’s a shocker: you don’t control them. Actually, you don’t really control anyone. If this is your bag, you aren’t leading, you’re coercing, and your employees will give you their bare minimum effort. In today’s competitive business world, we need the discretionary energy your employees and teams hold.

4. Take a fourth-person perspective. Far too often, we congratulate ourselves on taking a third-person perspective on a problem. We pretend that we can see it through someone else’s eyes. Try looking at yourself looking at a problem and ask yourself what biases and tendencies you’re carrying and what you can do differently.

5. Embrace positivity. Leadership recipes can’t guide your attitude, nor can they influence how you see the world. Try to view your role as a leader through a positive lens — one that assumes noble intent, seeks the best in people, and presents an optimistic view about the future. Your employees aren’t the problem. They’re the answer to your problem. Fashion optimistic environments where people feel engaged and where they trust one another.

If it sounds like this is work, it is. When we take a step away from prescribed approaches to leading, we step into a world that’s full of doubt and risk. We enter a universe where human emotions can vary greatly, and we’re left to deal with them. We may be hardwired for survival, but we’re also hardwired for belonging — to create a sense of connection with others. One size doesn’t fit all. Take a step beyond the recipe, override that instinct, welcome the human aspect of leadership, and become a truly caring leader.

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Leading Forum
Zina Sutch has been leading development and diversity programs for the Federal government for 20 years and currently serves in the Senior Executive Service. Patrick Malone spent 23 years in the Navy and served as an officer in the Medical Service Corps. Zina is a faculty member and Patrick is director of the Key Executive Leadership Program at American University. Their new book is Leading with Love and Laughter: Letting Go and Getting Real at Work. Learn more at sutchmalone.com

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Elevate Others Love Works

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:36 AM
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Tim Grover on Winning

Tim Grover on Winning

WINNING has its own language and its own code. And motivational talk isn’t part of it.

Sports trainer and mindset expert to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and others, Tim Grover (with Shari Wenk) provides a look at what it takes to perform at the highest levels in any field in Winning: The Unforgiving Race to Greatness.

Grover says winning is uncivilized, hard, nasty, unpolished, dirty, rough, unforgiving, unapologetic, uninhibited, and everything. Results are all that matter. “Winning will cost you everything, and reward you with more.” For many of us, the problem is that winning is “trapped under a lifetime of fear and worry and doubt.”

There are thirteen—equally important—characteristics of winning presented very candidly by Grover. The Winning Thirteen:

WINNING Makes You Different, and Different Scares People

Ask questions because if you do what everyone else is doing, you will end up like everyone else. “When you know what to think, you’re ready to compete. When you know how to think, you’re ready to win. Your education teaches you what to think. Life experience teaches you how to think.”

I have one nonnegotiable: Performance. Everything contributing to that is open to discussion, as long as we arrive at the same end result. The one thing we’re not going to negotiate is anything that adversely impacts your performance.

WINNING Wages War on the Battlefield in Your Mind

All day, every day, your mental battlefield is attacked by blasts of adrenaline and anger and fear and anxiety, and other explosives too. Stress. Insecurity. Doubt. Envy. Winners can detect those bombs and defuse them before they can do any damage. Losers brace for impact and wonder how to clean up the mess.

You need routines if you are going to win these battles and manage the distractions. The routines allow you to execute without rethinking. For Jordan, his routines allowed him the “mental freedom and clarity to focus on one thing: the complexity of the game, and manage every variable that stood between himself and a win.”

WINNING Is the Ultimate Gamble on Yourself

For leaders, like athletes, it’s not just the traits but how they are put together, and each person is unique. Winning is about having the confidence to gamble on yourself.

Confidence is feeling as low as you’ve ever felt in your life, and knowing you’ll recover stronger than you were before. It’s hearing others tell you everything is fine, you’re perfect just the way you are … and knowing they’re wrong and you still have work to do.

WINNING Isn’t Heartless, But You Will Use Your Heart Less

Your mind is stronger than feelings. “You have to know when to turn your heart off, and your mind on.”

You want energy. Focus. Intensity. You want to be alert and aggressive and strong. None of those are emotions, they are a state of mental power. You want your mind locked in, so you don’t even feel the nerves and the pressure that come with competition.

Your mind can let go of the past, forgive grudges, and look to the future. Feelings hold on to every last bit of trash, forever.

WINNING Belongs to Them, And It’s Your Job to Take It

Winning begins with you. “Should I go to the gym? Should I skip this donut? Can I get out of the house on time? Will I get my work done today?”

Winning has no loyalty to you. No matter how long you’ve battled to become a winner, it takes one split second to become a loser. I know that’s a hard reality for a lot of people. They work so hard to get somewhere, and in an instant, it’s gone. They gave it up. Or more likely … someone took it.

WINNING Wants All of You; There Is No Balance

Focus and commitment. That means mastering the art of “NO.” If you give everything in your life equal weight, you are out of the race.

Every time you say yes, every time you say maybe or not right now when you really want to say no, Winning rolls its eyes and looks for someone else.

WINNING Is Selfish

Winners don’t care what you think, they just need results. Selfishness is about separating yourself from the average—“to move from where you are to where you want to be.” But Grover notes, “separation doesn’t mean you cut all ties and refuse to cooperate. Collaboration and cooperation are essential in my business, and probably in yours too.”

Selfishness means investing in yourself. Forget secret codes. “Invest in your education and your skills. There are no shortcuts, there’s no fast track.”

WINNING Takes You Through Hell. And If You Quit, That’s Where You’ll Stay

Winning is not a permanent destination—once on top, always on top. “It’s a never-ending cycle, not a one-way trip. You want to win? Start at the bottom and work your way up. Congrats, you won. You want to feel that way again? Go back to the bottom and work your way up.” Over and over.

Resilience isn’t built in your comfort zone; it’s built in hell. And every time you go back you’re a little harder, rougher, less emotional, more scarred.

You rebuild yourself into something stronger. Not the same as you were. Stronger than before.

WINNING Is a Test with No Correct Answers

Resilience is a daily issue. We all have insecurity and a fear of failure. But Winners don’t let it hold them back. “Don’t allow your fear to escalate into uncontrollable doubt.”

Fear shows up on its own. Doubt has to be invited. Fear heightens your awareness; it makes you alert. Doubt paralyzes your thinking.

[Resilience] is the ability to see everything that can go wrong, and still get control of what can go right.

WINNING Knows All Your Secrets

You aren’t alone. There are voices inside your head—especially at night when there is less to distract you.

Your anxiety about the unknown future, the lies, the guilt, the feelings of inadequacy and failure, the fear of letting others down ... most people are terrified by those late-night visits; they don’t want to deal with that kind of mental isolation.

[Winners know] a huge part of their success was the ability to be mentally alone.

WINNING Never Lies

You can’t fake winning. “Winning knows the truth. And it needs you to admit it. Because even if you can fool absolutely everyone else … you still know the truth.”

If you can’t summon the desire and energy to make I, someone else will.

Too many options = too many excuses, too many ways to get stuck.

Tweaking just means: Let me see how I can cheat a little here or there, make it easier, give myself an out. I already had the right answer, but let me see how I can screw things up.

WINNING Is Not a Marathon, It’s a Sprint with No Finish Line

Every step is important no matter the distance. You keep going until it gets done. But…

When you get to the finish, you should already see the next starting gate in front of you.

Kobe’s secret weapon: He had the unfaltering ability to focus on what he was doing, for as long as he needed to, until he got the result he wanted.

WINNING Is Everything

You have to put in the work now. Our opportunity to win is now. Each and every day, but time is limited.

The biggest mistake we make in life is thinking we have time.

Winners have one fear, and it isn’t about losing. They can come back from a loss, they can find another way to win. They fear not having enough time. Not enough days, weeks, months, and years to complete their life’s work. Not having everything in place. Not accomplishing everything they dreamed of. Not finishing.

Grover backs up each point with insights from his clients—especially Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Winning defines the road less taken.

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Sebastian Coe Eleven Rings

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:53 PM
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Grace Notes: Leading in an Upside-Down World

Grace Notes

IN Grace: A Leaders Guide to a Better Us, John Baldoni laid out a philosophy for better leading and living. Now in Grace Notes: Leading in an Upside-Down World, he reflects on the practical application of that philosophy. Over the course of the last year, he collected his thoughts on the response to the pandemic and its implications.

Baldoni is a generous encourager. So, it is no surprise that he shares with us practical positive thoughts. These notes touch on many elements of what it means to be a good citizen, a friend, and a leader. Here are several that stood out for me:

We’ve all heard the term “random acts of kindness.”
I prefer something a little more direct…
I call it intended acts of kindness.
That is developing a mindset where you can be of assistance, of help,
be a source of joy to someone else.
By thinking this way, you adopt a kindness mindset.
You get out of your own skin, and you walk in the shoes of another,
if only for a moment.
It’s other-directedness that I think we all need.

To be thinking of one another
and also finding ways to deliver joy.
And to deliver an act of kindness,
something that puts a smile on someone else’s face.
It doesn’t have to be a big thing.
An emoji text.
A funny photograph.
It could be a joke that you’ve heard… or a happy story. Simple things.
These are acts of kindness.
Little things show others that you’re thinking of them, and
that you care about them as fellow travelers.

Here’s a word that makes me smile every time I hear it.
The word is abundance.
It is imperative in our time of crisis,
when our natural default is to protect.
And that means scarcity.
Many people are stepping forward and sharing.
And that’s where the spirit of abundance comes from.

Abundance is rooted in Grace.
Because it means working for the greater good.
And when you have a spirit of abundance, you want to share.

All of us have something we can share.
It may be a resource. It may be our time…
it may be our experience, or maybe a story.
Abundance is an attitude that says
We’re all in this together and let’s pull together.

Change begins one person at a time.
And it begins with ourselves.
Assume the best intentions of others.
Look for ways to turn negative thoughts into positive actions.
Turn these kinds of things into making a positive difference for others.
Maybe you want to volunteer in your community.
And the other thing is to think and act more positively in general.

My philosophy is anchored in the notion of Grace,
which I regard as the catalyst for positive change.
Use Grace to reach out to others to make genuine connections.
We suffer together. We persist together.
We will emerge, let’s hope, a better people.
But if we are, it will involve personal change.
Each of us is doing what we can.

Generosity is that open-hearted spirit.
It is the willingness to embrace others…to meet them where they are.
And to demonstrate that you care about them
and are willing to be open-hearted.
And to work for the benefit of all.
Generous people give of themselves.
They give their time.
And they also encourage others to do the same.
Not because they have to, but because they want to.
I like to say that generosity is contagious.
When we see one person acting generously,
we are moved to do the same.

He shares this mandate for leaders—Leadership Now:

When trouble strikes, it is an opportunity for leaders to step to the fore.
This is how and where they show their mettle,
what they can do for others.
Crisis provokes opportunity.
It provokes the opportunity, at a minimum, to change.
Leaders call upon others to come together for a common cause…
be that cause of your business, your organization, your community.
Whatever it is, the time to act is now.
People are looking for direction.
People are looking for leadership.
People are looking for hope.
And leaders have the opportunity to deliver that.
As you look forward, and times seem to get tight and tighter,
nd tensions rise...
Now’s the opportunity for leaders to step to the fore.

Offering over 60 notes, Baldoni reflects on many qualities that are central aspects of grace like patience, kindness, and respect. He also writes about anxiety, managing doubt and discouragement, and how to make this our finest hour. You will finish this little book inspired to be a better person.

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Grace Two Fronts of Every Crisis

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:00 AM
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Always End with the Beginning in Mind

Always End with the Beginning in Mind

AS the Baby Boomers continue to age, business continuity and succession planning are on everyone’s radar. Take, for example, the financial industry: the average age of financial advisors in the U.S. exceeds age 50, and less than 12 percent of advisors are under the age of 35. In my observation, among the most successful advisors, the median age is even higher.

The number of financial advisors who die or are limited by medical issues while still practicing is reaching an epidemic. An estimated 40 percent of today’s advisors will exit by the end of the 2020s, whether the advisors like it or not. Consequentially, this has piqued the industry’s interest for many years.

Shoemakers, Fix Your Own Shoes!

Advisors pride themselves on asking clients the hard questions about business continuity and succession.

Consequently, it’s routine to ask clients:

  • How long do you want to continue working?
  • What are your thoughts about retirement?
  • Do you have someone in place who could lead the firm if you either live too long, die too soon, or become disabled?

For most business people, their single largest asset is their business, and what becomes of their largest asset is a huge deal. They’re asking themselves:

  • Do I want to sell the business?
  • Do I want to turn the business over to one or more of my children? If so, who leads the operation?
  • If not, am I simply going to let the company wither away until it falls by the wayside?

Everyone knows that there’s only one thing certain in life: everybody dies. Making provision for death, disability, and retirement is simply not optional. Unless I guess you’re a financial advisor!

While advisors love to discuss business continuity with their customers, as a group, they do a horrible job of advising themselves. It’s a classic case of “shoemaker fix your own shoes” where a personal succession plan is apparently on tomorrow’s to-do list.

Recently I had a discussion with an older colleague. I asked him what would become of his firm if he died, became disabled, or decided to retire? While not completely ignoring the first two possibilities, he pounced on the idea of retirement, saying, “Retire? I’m having too much fun to retire! Besides, most people who retire are either dead or disabled a year later anyway.” Sadly, my friend represents a significant percentage of advisors today who think they’ll somehow cheat fate and work forever.

My first mentor told me, “Always do what’s in the best interest of the person sitting in front of you, and your interest will always take care of itself.” While I find most great businesspeople believe in this adage as it applies to the way they treat their customers, it doesn’t necessarily carry over to the way they treat their own businesses.

Could intentionally building a business to have it continue into perpetuity be in the best interest of the clients, the employees, the successor, and the founder? What if, in executing a succession plan, everyone wins?

The Cream Rises Until It Sours

Back in the 1960s, Laurence Peter, a Canadian sociologist, wrote The Peter Principle. What Dr. Peter’s research found was that just because an employee stands out in one position doesn’t mean he or she will excel at another. In fact, employers frequently elevate people with what Peter famously called a promotion to their “level of incompetence” and suffer the inevitable consequences associated with the decision. They often simply don’t possess the skills needed to succeed in their new position. It’s not so much a case of the person being incompetent, but rather they are not suited for the role.

One of Peter’s famous statements was, rather than cream rising to the top, “cream rises until it sours.” This can lead to organizations becoming almost entirely filled with people inadequate for the tasks they’re assigned to fulfill.

Too many good advisors aren’t particularly good businesspeople. Their advisory skills don’t necessarily translate into an ability to lead and build organizations with the proper infrastructure to continue beyond themselves. Every advisor needs to examine whether he or she is the soured cream keeping the firm from being able to thrive for the long-term.

The Goldilocks Dilemma

Most of us are familiar with the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. When Goldilocks eats from three bowls of porridge, one is too hot, one is too cold, one is just right. The problem is that no one can know for certain when an exit is just right. Indeed, when it comes to exiting a business, you can either leave too soon or you can leave too late. “Just right” is simply not an option.

Because too soon and too late are the only real options, the question is, how do you choose between two imperfect alternatives? The answer is to leave too soon because leaving too late is disastrous. However, leaving too soon is the difficult choice because, at least on the surface, you wonder if you’d have been better off waiting. That is the Goldilocks Dilemma — you can never know if the timing is just right.

My advice is to end with the beginning in mind. Allow your firm to become even greater after you depart by putting the right people and systems in place that will allow the firm to be even greater with each successive generation of leadership. I exited my company in 2019 and have watched how, even amid a pandemic, everyone has prospered. Indeed, my successors grew the firm by nearly 25 percent in 2020. Our clients and employees love my successors and have shown how much they appreciate the transition. Meanwhile, my life has never been better as I write and teach.

Be Fearless!

Succession planning can be challenging for numerous reasons, but the biggest challenges are usually internal, not external. James Clear, in his book, Atomic Habits, describes three levels of behavior change. The first level is outcomes. The second is changing your process. However, the deepest level is changing your identity or what you believe about yourself.

Most succession plans focus on outcomes or selling the business without considering identity — or who they see themselves as internally. This leads many to a fear the succession process and becomes the root cause of moving the subject to tomorrow’s to-do list.

The best advisors find their identity in their businesses. The thought of not being an advisor is anathema to them. As a result, their greatest fear is deciding who they are if they’re not an advisor. A friend of mine sold his business to his hand-picked successor. While the business outcome was great, internally, he was a mess. Without his agency, he lost his identity. This past year he started another agency because, in truth, he couldn’t re-identify as anything other than an agent.

While no one can say what the best business succession solution is for any organization, be open to the myriad of possibilities there are in succession planning. Take it off tomorrow’s to-do list. Create a succession plan that looks out for everyone’s best interest — in which everyone wins. Indeed, if it’s not a win-win, call the whole thing off.

Remember, you can exit too early or too late, but waiting until the time is just right is fool’s gold. Most of all, be fearless.

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Leading Forum
Donald F. White is a highly sought-after international speaker, commentator, and author. Don enjoyed a long and distinguished career in financial services and a quarter-century stint on the radio before selling his business to help others execute effective succession strategies. His latest book is a how-to guide to succession planning entitled, Always End with the Beginning in Mind: How Firms Remain Great After the Founder Exists. Learn more at donald f white.com.

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Person in the Mirror Picking Good Leaders

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:40 PM
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Mayday! Mayday! How to Build Trust in a Crisis

Trust Horsager

NOTHING reveals an organization’s limits more than a sudden crisis. And after 2020, we’ve all become more familiar with what that looks like. Crisis situations test what you have built — your culture, your relationships, your resilience. But at the root of all of these challenges is one capacity that means the difference between success and failure: trust.

Trust is your most important asset amidst crisis and change. A team with high levels of trust will have the agility necessary to make decisions and react quickly to fluctuating situations.

Building Trust Instantly

The beautiful thing about trust is that it will help you through a crisis even if you start to build it the day things go off the rails. In fact, your quickest opportunity to build trust is in a crisis. On 9-11, complete strangers trusted each other in an instant if they were running in the same direction.

To some degree, trust is built up over time, but your ability to build trust multiplies in a crisis. Building trust consists of strengthening eight traits (also called pillars) that came out of research on what makes the most effective leaders and organizations.

Take a look at the pillar of clarity for example. Clarity increases trust instantly. It’s almost impossible to trust a leader who is vague or who gives insufficient information. But be crystal clear in your words and your actions, and trust will immediately increase — especially in the middle of a crisis.

This three-point strategy prioritizes clarity and provides a roadmap that you can use over and over in any crisis.

1. Narrow your focus to a single priority. When the unexpected hits, everything feels like a priority. But it’s actually the opposite; in a crisis, it’s essential to address only one priority at a time. Ask yourself these two questions to help guide your actions: first, ask “What can I control?” It’s tempting to focus on barriers, but the only thing that matters in a crisis is what you can control, not what you can’t.

The second question to ask yourself is “What is the one, most important thing that I can do, right now?” That’s your priority. Designating only one priority means your team will be able to follow through. There’s nothing that builds clarity more effectively than aligning a team around a single, achievable priority. When your team knows exactly where to focus its efforts, trust in your leadership will grow.

2. Compress your plan into short blocks. In a conversation with Gen. McChrystal (best known for his leadership of the US Army Joint Special Operations Command), he shared that when the war in Afghanistan took a turn for the worse, they weren’t able to quickly get the intel they needed. So instead of planning weeks ahead, they set 30-minute daily meetings to define a daily priority. What could this look like in business? Often leaders set a one-year priority, but in a crisis the pace of change means you may need to set a one-month, one-week, or even a one-day priority for your people to follow.

In any crisis, task completion is a crucial benchmark because momentum builds momentum. Narrow your priority to something that can be completed in this short timeframe, or shorter! After a week, the situation may have completely transformed. A doable goal also facilitates engagement and optimism. When people know absolutely that their efforts are aligned with a larger plan, they won’t have to waste precious time second guessing or asking for approval. Nothing solidifies trust like a reliable pattern of completion. And the more trust increases, the more smoothly and quickly your operation can run.

3. Maintain agility. Responding to a crisis requires speed, but it also requires flexibility and agility. The situation will change constantly and on a massively accelerated timeframe. The ability to take in information, adjust, and pivot to a new direction is crucial. Once you’ve completed one priority, you need to be able to identify and shift to the next one. The ability to reassess a situation and pivot quickly is just as important as narrowing to a single focus. Leaders must be actively engaged in this process, taking their teams from start to finish, then circling back around to repeat the process.

Making it through a crisis unscathed requires organizations to be able to identify, complete, and move on from tasks at a rapid clip. A high trust organization will always be able to move more quickly and maintain solid footing. And nothing facilitates trust better than crystal clear communication.

Once you start, clarity builds on itself, and as clarity increases, trust grows exponentially in your leadership and in your business.

* * *

Leading Forum
David Horsager, MA, CSP, CPAE, is the CEO of Trust Edge Leadership Institute, Trust Expert in Residence at High Point University, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Trust Edge. David has advised leaders and delivered life-changing presentations on six continents, with audiences ranging from FedEx, Toyota, MIT and global governments to the New York Yankees and the Department of Homeland Security. His new book, Trusted Leader: 8 Pillars that Drive Results describes how to create a companywide foundation of trust. Learn more at TrustEdge.com or davidhorsager.com.

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The Trust Edge Decision to Trust

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:52 PM
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Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership

Everyday People

LEADERSHIP is a mindset—a way of approaching life. It is about how you behave and what you do. It can be taught and then tested and refined in practice.

We all have a responsibility to lead in the context we are in. James Kouzes and Barry Posner emphasize this point in Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership. The book is about what “individuals do to effect change and improvement.”

Most leaders do not have titles. And this book is written for them – those people who can and should lead “without the benefit of hierarchical position and rank.”

To help you develop confidence and grow as a leader, the authors present an operating system of leadership practices based on their time-tested Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. Together they define what leaders do.

Leadership is fundamentally about your relationships, your credibility, and what you do. Leadership has everything to do about how you behave.

The authors share the personal stories of ordinary people who stepped up and behaved as informal leaders. When you read these stories of people from all walks of life who lead at their personal best, they demonstrated a common set of behaviors and actions that the authors have grouped together in the Five Practices:

Model the Way

FivePractices1It’s your behavior that earns you respect. Everyday leaders said things like, “I had to be clear about my personal values and then make sure that I walked the talk.” Setting an example builds credibility—the bedrock of leadership.

Modeling the Way begins with knowing and being able to articulate your values. But good leadership goes beyond that. “Successfully leading others requires an understanding and affirmation of shared values—the principles that can galvanize and strengthen collective commitment.”

Inspire a Shared Vision

FivePractices2Leaders see what could be. It is their clear vision of that future that pulls them forward. “The more I imagined what was possible, the more clearly I could describe what the future might hold in store for all of us.” “We had to be aligned so that we could find a common purpose as a team going forward.”

To follow your vision, people must see how they can make it their own. You must understand the hopes and aspirations of those you are involved with.

You must breathe life into visions, not only by your own enthusiasm and expressiveness but by listening to and communicating the hopes and dreams of others so that they clearly understand how their values and interests will be served.

Challenge the Process

FivePractices3All of the everyday leadership examples involved some change from the status quo. “At their best, leaders are pioneers. They are willing to step out into the unknown and continuously search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve.” Look for opportunities to make a difference.

Be willing to experiment and learn from your mistakes and setbacks. Identify and remove self-imposed constraints and organizational conventions that block innovation and creativity.

Enable Others to Act

FivePractices4It’s not leadership if you do it alone. Leadership isn’t leadership in a vacuum. Enabling others to act involves building relationships and trust. Trust is built by trusting others. Giving people a choice builds competence and confidence.

You strengthen others when you make it possible for them to exercise choice and discretion, when you develop in others the competence and confidence to act and excel, and when you foster the accountability that compels action.

Encourage the Heart

FivePractices5Expect the best in others and show you care. Recognize others. The everyday leaders in these examples indicated that “they had to Encourage the Heart of those with whom they were working to carry on, especially when they might have been tempted to give up.”

By paying attention, offering encouragement, personalizing appreciation, and maintaining a positive outlook, leaders stimulate, rekindle, and concentrate people’s energies and drive. Encouragement is more personal and positive than other forms of feedback, and it strengthens trust within relationships.

The behaviors associated with the Five Practices are not gender, race, or context-specific. Anyone can put these practices into action in their lives and lead with their best selves. Leadership begins by working on you. Start by believing that you can make a difference right where you are and by practicing these behaviors deliberately in your context. It will change you, and you can then make a difference in other people’s lives.

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Ten Truths Leaders Legacy

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:31 PM
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The Seven Tests of A CEO

Seven CEO Tests

WHAT are the critical challenges that can make or break a leader?

In The CEO Test by the always insightful Adam Bryant and by the former Amgen president and CEO Kevin Sharer, they present seven tests that really all leaders face in one form or another. They call it the CEO test because the intensity and consequences of these challenges grow as you move into higher levels of leadership. As a result, these challenges are brought into their sharpest relief and thereby provide the richest lesson for anyone aspiring to lead better.

They believe that “to succeed in a leadership role, you have to achieve a certain threshold level of proficiency in each of the skills” highlighted in these seven tests. So, they are worth reflecting on no matter what context you lead in.

The best leadership advice, after all, helps slow the game, so that you can better anticipate, understand, and label the nuanced dynamics of different situations in the moment and then guide them to better outcomes.

Test #1 Can You Develop a Simple Plan for Your Strategy?

This test begins with the ability to crystalize the issue or idea in simple terms and then create a clear, galvanizing plan to get everyone moving in the same direction. The simple plan should “address two questions that every employee deserves to have an answer to: What should I be working on? Why is it important?” Bob Iger of Disney writes:

If you don’t articulate your priorities clearly, then the people around you don’t know what their own should be. Time and energy and capital get wasted. You can do a lot for the morale of the people around you (and therefore the people around them) just by taking the guesswork out of their day-to-day life.

Two great questions to ask: “What three or four things that, if we accomplish them over the next twelve months, will make this a good year?” and “What are the areas that are going to get new or greater focus to achieve the outcome?”

Test #2 Can You Make the Culture Real — and Matter?

How are we going to work together? Building a strong culture is a critical test for leaders. “Done right, culture will engage something deeper within employees’ sense of themselves, ideally in ways that are aligned with business goals.” Robert Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television said:

Culture is almost like a religion. People buy into it and they believe in it. And you can tolerate a little bit of heresy, but not a lot. If there are not clear and consistent guidelines for behavior, or if they are not reinforced and modeled every day by the top leaders, cultures can devolve into hives of dysfunction, insecurity, fear, and chaos.

Test #3 Can You Build Teams That Are True Teams?

This test brings us to four questions: What is the purpose of the team? Who should be on the team? How will the team work together? What is the leader’s role on the team?

Teams need to evolve or grow with the times they are in. They need to have a “forward radar,” says the former CEO of Aetna, Ron Williams. “What you see is that some people aren’t evolving with the complexity of the business, and their ‘forward radar’ is diminished and keeps getting diminished.” Or as former CFO of the Disney Interactive Media Group, Bruce Gordon, puts it, “Very few people are bad at their job, but many are not as good as they must be.”

We debate like we’re right, listen like we’re wrong, and then decide, commit, and lead together.

Test #4 Can You Lead Transformation?

The status quo is not an option. Even in institutions where the message never changes, the environment it is in does, and therefore delivery changes. The challenge is to disrupt yourself before you become obsolete.

A couple of guidelines:

Clarify what is not going to change, particularly mission and purpose, to make employees more open to new approaches for accomplishing their work.

Acknowledge the uncertainty but reinforce the certainty of the need to change and the confidence that the organization can be nimble to adjust.

On the subject of what’s not going to change, The New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, says that it is important to separate mission from tradition. “Mission should never be tinkered with. You mess with mission at your own risk. Tradition needs to be constantly interrogated.” But he adds that you need to be very clear about your reason for being. “If everything is up for grabs, if you can change literally anything about a company, then the company has no reason for being.”

Test #5 Can You Really Listen?

How do you know what you need to know? The danger is walling yourself off from any kind of skepticism.

Kevin Sharer, former CEO of Agmen, “It’s not just about listening to the person across the table from you. Listening is actually being alert to the whole ecosystem in which you operate.” You have to be able to separate the signal from the noise. “That’s not an easy thing to do because most of the communications that come to you are curated to have a pleasing tone.”

Clue: “Watch how funny your jokes get.”

Test #6 Can You Handle a Crisis?

A crisis often emerges out of uncertain times. It can come from without and from within. If you have passed the first five tests, you are much more likely to better handle the next crisis.

The particular challenge of leading in a crisis is to bring some predictability to moments of intense unpredictability and stress, when so much is on the line, including your own and your organization’s reputation.

It is essential that the leader is visible because they set the tone that others will follow. It’s a good time to reimagine your organization.

A crisis creates a rare opportunity to revisit long-standing assumptions about your organization. Ideas that may have seemed impossible to tackle are suddenly on the table.

How well you survive a crisis is really determined by what you have done before the crisis. “Any weakness in your organization will be exposed and magnified. Your ability to handle a crisis will be a direct result of how well you led before the crisis.” That leads us to the next and final test.

Test #7 Can You Master the Inner Game of Leadership?

The other six tests were about things a leader must do. This test is about what a leader must be. As such, this test underpins the others. How well you master the inner game of leadership will help you in mastering the other six areas.

Leadership is not easy, but Bryant and Sharer believe that if you understand it as a series of paradoxes, you will be better able to become the leader you need to be. They present seven:

Be confident and humble
Be urgent and patient
Be compassionate and demanding
Be optimistic and realistic
Read the weather and set the weather
Create freedom and structure
It’s about you making it about others

To make it about others, you need to acknowledge the pressures, keep your ego in check, focus on a few achievable goals, make yourself dispensable, and don’t forget to make the time to recharge yourself.

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The Motive Learning to Lead Williams

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:11 PM
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Leadership U: The Six Degrees of Leadership

Leadership U

TO LEAD people from one place to another in good times and in challenging ones requires a framework like the one presented in Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison’s concise book, Leadership U: Accelerating Through the Crisis Curve.

The framework is called, The Six Degrees of Leadership. These six degrees are mastered separately but work together in practice.

Degree #1: Anticipate

anticipateTo anticipate, you need to see what lies ahead based on a firm grasp of where you are today. There are four qualifiers that you must possess. “Without addressing each one, you won’t be able to predict unseen roadblocks or know when and how to brake, then accelerate out of the crisis curve.” They are: Embrace Humility, Be Self-Aware, Avoid Complacency, and Know That Others See You as A Function. (By function, he means that people will see your title and not tell you what you need to hear.)

Anticipating is 90% bottom-up and only 10% top-down. To anticipate, you need to make the hierarchy invisible. Take a total inventory across the organization as you listen for what people are thinking, feeling, fearing, and experiencing.

Burnison says no matter the climate, the question is always, “What does this mean going forward?”

Degree #2: Navigate

navigateNavigating is course-correcting in real-time. Together, navigation and anticipation help to keep the organization on an even keel. Without losing sight of the ultimate goal, we need to focus on the present and make adjustments as necessary. “Navigating is determining both direction and velocity.” Burnison says, “Plan a little, think a lot, decide always.”

Impatience doesn’t get the job done. It inspires more fear than high performance, which can override critical thinking. Anybody who has gone into a skid on black ice can relate: your instinct is to slam on the brakes and jerk the wheel in the opposite direction. It takes a clear had to do the opposite—the counterintuitive—of steering into the skid to regain control.

Degree #3: Communicate

communicateConstantly connect with others through the power of storytelling. As a leader, remember you are the message. It’s not just what you say but how you say it. In a crisis, especially, people need to know the facts rather than relying on their imagination.

When there is trust in what you say, there will be belief in what you do. That starts with modeling a “say/do” ratio of one-to-one. You do what you say and say what you mean. When you’re viewed as an authentic leader, people will not only trust your words and actions, they will also mirror what you say and do.

Degree #4: Listen

listenLeaders need to listen to and for what they don’t want to hear. And that means making it safe for people at all levels to say what is on their mind. “Information, insights, and marketing intelligence must bubble up, not cascade down.”

What often can hold people back from giving honest feedback is the lack of perceived economic independence. Those over us control our resources. “Economic stability is the ultimate truth serum, and leaders need to recognize that.”

As you listen, you need to distinguish between the urgent and the important. When a crisis hits, though, everything blurs as events and their implications constantly change. What’s important often becomes urgent, and the urgent becomes critical. You must delegate others to lead around a common purpose.

Degree #5: Learn

learnAnticipation, navigation, communication, and listening all form the basis of what you learn. To have learning agility is to acknowledge what you don’t know. To help find clarity to your situation, find a close comparison. “By running the ‘unknown’ of what you’re currently facing against the ‘known’ of previous crises, you gain perspective. You identify patterns to connect the dots.” A learning culture is built on curiosity. Get uncomfortable.

The distance between your company and its competitors is not absolute; it’s relative. If you want to transform your organization, you must grow your organization through learning.

Degree #6: Lead

leadAll of the degrees come together in the final degree: lead. Meet people where they are first. “Acknowledging fears must come first, before collective genius can ‘bubble up,’ instead of information just cascading down.” Help people see the win. “When they can see more, they can be more.

In a world where so much has be reimagined, nobody has all the answers. This is not a time for individual heroism. It’s all about the team—and you need talented people around you.

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12 Absolutes of Leadership No Fear of Failure

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:46 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership , Problem Solving


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
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Leaders Who Lust

Leaders Who Lust

IN 2004, Barbara Kellerman wrote that “the idea that some leaders and some followers are bad, and that they might have something in common with good leaders and followers, has not fully penetrated the conversation or the curriculum” on leadership. And it should because it is true—the good and the bad are an inherent part of us all.

Kellerman also rightly asserts in Bad Leadership that “Human nature is human nature, and that makes it inevitable that certain patterns of bad leadership repeat themselves.” And this brings us to Leaders Who Lust by Barbara Kellerman and Todd Pittinsky.

Lust is a component of human nature. It is a human nature issue. It is innate, but it is not always acted upon. The determining factor is character—the character to bring the self under control. Lust is a fixation on the self.

Kellerman and Pittinsky define lust as: “A psychological drive that produces intense wanting, even desperately needing to obtain an object or to secure a circumstance. When the object has been obtained, or the circumstance secured, there is relief, but only briefly, temporarily.” Their definition helps to separate it from determination and grit. The difference really comes down to motivation and closure. And no matter how many times a lustful leader might insist, “I’m doing it for the people” or “to do good for the world,” the “people” can see through the rhetoric to the selfish motivation behind it.

They note that lust can result in good or bad outcomes. Leaders can harness their lust for the common good, or “leaders who lust can as readily harness their prodigious energies to foster murder and mayhem.”

They cover six different types of lust that are the most indicative and important to leadership and two individuals that typify that form of lust.

Power: the ceaseless craving to control. Examples: Roger Ailes and Xi Jinping

Money: the limitless desire to accrue great wealth. Examples: Warren Buffett and Charles Koch

Sex: the constant hunt for sexual gratification. Examples: John F. Kennedy and Silvio Berlusconi

Success: the unstoppable need to achieve. Examples: Hillary Clinton and Tom Brady

Legitimacy: the tireless claim to identity and equity. Examples: Nelson Mandela and Larry Kramer

Legacy: the endless quest to leave a permanent imprint. Examples: Bill and Melinda Gates and George Soros

While all of these examples are instructive and, in some cases, are cautionary, not all of these examples seem to fit the definition of pure, unadulterated lust. Some may have other issues driving their behavior. In any event, I always find Kellerman to be very insightful.

When it comes to lust, the underlying issue is control—an attempt to bend reality to your wishes. In most cases, lustful leaders believe that they are doing right by pushing their agenda.

When lust doesn’t get the results a leader wants, it is easy to point to some bias or prejudice, as the authors do in a few of the examples. And certainly, for some, it is a hurdle they must overcome, but further examination often uncovers other character flaws and abusive personalities undermining lustful leaders. Success often points to a degree of self-awareness where the leader has been able to consider their context and adjust accordingly.

Some leaders who lust are fortunate. Depending on the object of their lust, on their level of self-control, on who are their followers, and on the circumstances within which they are situated, some leaders who lust can use it to good effect. By “use it to good effect” we mean that such leaders can meet one or another need or want of their own, if only temporarily, while simultaneously meeting one or another need or want of their followers.

It does raise the question as the authors do, does moderation lead to mediocrity? The answer, of course, is no. They are two different issues. The fact that some succeed without moderation does not indicate causation. Sometimes a leader succeeds on the surface regarding their agenda in spite of their flaws, but they do pay a price.

Lust is not taught, but it does exist in our human nature. That said, the example of a lustful leader can arouse others to follow in their footsteps in an effort to get what they want.

Some of the lust lessons they enumerate are:

Lust can and sometimes does overwhelm common sense—which is, however, not by definition a deficit. “Sometimes lust overtakes common sense with results that are not only positive, they are downright exciting. One could even argue that the great dreamers in history, the great movers and shakers, are not usually known for their common sense. Rather they are known for having driving passion and vaulting ambition—levels of passion and ambition that not only are not reasonable, that are downright unreasonable.” That unreasonableness may take them to new levels of achievement or understanding that was not thought possible.

Lust is an inordinately powerful motivator—perhaps the most powerful motivator of all. “We primarily conclude that lust, as much as or maybe even more than anything else, distinguishes merely ordinary leaders from obviously extraordinary leaders.” Lust certainly drives people to perform in ways that are inspiring. The intense focus that lust can bring can move mountains. This leads us to the next observation.

Leaders who lust generally are in control, not out for control. “Lustful leaders do not usually behave in ways that are beyond the pale—they are not crazy. Generally, they channel their drive; if they did not, they would increase their chances of being ousted.” This is true in almost all cases as long as that leader feels they are moving forward. But leave them with no rational alternatives, and they often resort to unethical, outlandish behaviors to de-escalate the dissonance building up in their own mind.

We admire lustful leaders for their drive and discipline. The difference between lust and drive is closure. With lust, the self is never satisfied—the goalpost keeps moving further on. The challenge for us is to know where drive ends, and lust begins. At what point does pushing our own agenda become destructive and what is it we are really after. Self-examination is key if we are going to avoid the pitfalls of lust.

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Wrong with Leadership Training Good Followers Make the Best Leaders

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:11 PM
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Three Questions We Have of All Leaders

Three Questions We Have of All Leaders

WHENEVER we work with leaders, we have our own important worries—things like fairness, the amount of change we’re being asked to embrace, and our own personal goals. When you think about it, we have three prime questions when facing any leader. Whether they’re asked aloud or merely observed, we evaluate leaders on these questions when deciding whether we want to follow along and to what extent: Who are you? Where are we going? Do you see me?

Because leadership requires working together, it’s important for leaders to demonstrate humility (feeling and displaying deep regard for others’ dignity) to create healthy working relationships. Let’s look at how humble leaders provide positive answers to the three prime questions people have.

Who are you?

When people first meet us, they want to know who we are. This natural curiosity applies to leaders in a more penetrating way because leaders have power and influence. Two of the most important aspects of who you are that affect others’ dignity are how your ego appears when you interact with people and the level of integrity you display.

Ego is commonly defined as our opinion of ourselves, especially of our own importance or ability. We notice whether leaders emphasize or minimize the status difference between us. Leaders with a balanced ego are aware of their power but confident enough in themselves that they prefer to minimize its unnecessary display.

In contrast with a balanced ego, leaders who display high ego tend to emphasize their status around others. They may even display arrogance, such as boasting about achievements, name-dropping, or being condescending to others. Their behaviors can harm others’ dignity by hoisting their own sense of self-worth above that of others.

Integrity means being honest and having strong moral principles by behaving in ways that reflect a high standard of personal conduct, not only in work but also in our personal lives. In the context of work, integrity implies that the leader is authentic and honest in communication, ensuring that actions are consistent with words. This includes timely responses to inquiries and follow-through on appointments, and expected communication. It allows others to trust the leader to guide them well.

Where are we going?

People also want to know about the direction a leader is setting. Remember that leaders need to convert many types of stakeholders into followers, whether they’re peers, customers, employees, suppliers, legislators, or community citizens. Setting direction well means establishing a compelling vision and ethical strategies.

Although business leaders are rightfully concerned with competitive advantage and profitability, employees and customers typically have other concerns or priorities. People want to feel proud of both the work they do and the cause(s) they serve. Visions are compelling when they serve a greater good.

Strategies are designed as the best paths to desired outcomes, but some leaders engage in unethical practices. There are news reports of leadership misdeeds almost daily; leaders who pursue unethical approaches display a significant lack of regard for the dignity of others.

Instead, people want to know that the way their organizations operate is ethical. Ethical strategies can be developed by carefully understanding business opportunities and aligning others to pursue those approaches. Leaders who do this respect others’ dignity.

Some of the best strategies used by humble leaders involve competitive pricing, fair employee compensation, collaboration and integration of operations to minimize waste, and alignment of direction across the organization in ethical pursuit of business opportunity.

Do you see me?

“Do you see me?” may be the most critical question people have when asked to work with a leader. It implies: Do I matter to you? Am I merely a pawn for you to use in achieving your goals, or do you care about me as a person with my own interests and needs? How you treat people matters, and two of the most important behaviors are generous inclusion and developmental focus.

At its simplest, inclusion means inviting people to be part of the real action. Inclusion goes far beyond calling people together for staff meetings that simply provide face time or share routine reports. Instead, generous inclusion requires thinking about whom you’re engaging, on what activities, and in what way—and genuinely inviting people to contribute to key decisions. This requires careful listening. It’s also an important part of embracing organizational diversity.

Developmental focus implies long-term thinking. The power you hold can be used to support others’ growth, neglect it, or sabotage it, and people are aware of this. Your role as a leader can and should involve helping others learn in many ways, such as understanding the values of your specific organizational culture, how to do their job better, and how to improve their knowledge, so they have a better chance to advance.

Creating a Healthy Workplace

The most promising path to optimizing organizational performance is to get people to put their very best energies behind a shared plan. Getting this type of alignment is easiest when people feel inspired by their leader. What leaders say and do is scrutinized, and their behavior answers the three prime questions others have.

When the answers are favorable, people grow inspired, are eager to join in the quest, and give it their all. Leader humility has a lot to do with how productive we will be together. Therefore, leader humility has a lot to do with how effective a leader can be.

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Leading Forum
Dr. Marilyn Gist is an expert on leader development. Her academic career spans the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the University of Washington, where she held the Boeing Endowed Professorship of Business Management; and Seattle University, where she was formerly associate dean at the Albers School of Business and Economics and executive director of the Center for Leadership Formation. She speaks and consults with organizations worldwide, including Boeing, AT&T, Providence Health System, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and NASA. Her new book is The Extraordinary Power of Leader Humility: Thriving Organizations—Great Results. Learn more at MarilynGist.com.

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3 Types of Humility Humility Is New Smart

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:46 AM
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Five Qualities Genuine Leaders Have in Common

Five Qualities Genuine Leaders

COVID-19 reminds us that we live in a world full of uncertainty—and this will continue well beyond the pandemic. But it only intensifies something we were already seeing in the world of work: organizations need to adapt constantly to keep up with market dynamics. Unfortunately, this can take a toll on employees if businesses focus on efficiency but don’t create an environment where people feel they belong. And with today’s digital economy and globalized markets making organizations more and more decentralized, it’s getting harder than ever for workers to create meaningful relationships with others.

A recent MIT study underscores this. It surveyed top professionals from more than 120 countries about the skills needed for effective leadership in the decade ahead. It found that even more than in the past, leaders need to articulate a clear vision and strategy and provide a sense of shared purpose.

Employees are expressing this, too. Millennials and Generation Z crave purpose as well as ethical behaviors from their bosses. We saw that when more than 32,000 students in France signed a pledge to work for environmentally conscious companies, or when thousands of Google employees signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a government program that uses artificial intelligence to enhance military tactics.

Today’s workers also want autonomy and empowerment. They look for a work environment where they can decide how the job gets done. A Gallup study of the American workforce found that 42 percent of Millennials would switch to a job that allows them to work independently on a project of their choosing, and 63 percent to a job that allows them flexible hours.

This kind of workplace demands a different kind of leader: people who follow their inner convictions and passions, and who engage with others in an authentic and open way.

Leaders who behave like this are especially well-positioned to make a difference—let’s call them genuine leaders. They have a deep understanding of themselves, including their values, ambitions, and goals. They also lead with generosity: they care about others and empower their teams to fulfill their own ambitions. These leaders show you who they are as human beings, rather than hiding behind a mantle of power. They are not afraid to share their personal stories in a way that resonates with others and are able to shape a collective narrative that fosters trust and a common purpose—enabling others to find meaning in their own work.

When people work alongside genuine leaders, they become more willing to give their whole hearts and minds to the mission. They feel motivated to work with others, to innovate, and to strive for extraordinary results.

For my new book, The Expanding Circle, I interviewed three dozen genuine leaders across industries. While each of them has their own unique style for getting the job done, we can distill five common themes:

1. Achieving clarity of purpose. Genuine leaders have a deep understanding of their values, ambitions, and goals, and project their true selves for all to see. This self-awareness helps them lead with confidence and share their true passion and commitment. This authenticity helps create trust with others. It’s also critical to ensuring collaboration.

2. Crafting a genuine personal story. Humans are hardwired to learn through storytelling. By sharing a personal story that reflects their values and convictions, these leaders help others understand who they are and what they stand for. A story that resonates with others helps build trust and establishes a common ground for working together.

3. Seeking to understand others. Many people rely on their past experiences or even “intuition” to guess what others want. But intuition is a shortcut—and not a particularly good one. Genuine leaders spend time listening to others, asking questions, and exchanging ideas. They avoid prejudging others, which allows them to really see the people they are trying to reach—who they are and what they care about.

4. Shaping a shared narrative. Based on this deep understanding of others, these leaders develop a shared narrative, providing a common purpose and strategic direction: where we need to go, why it matters, and how we’re going to get there. This kind of narrative establishes a framework for teams to work together.

5. Empowering others. Fundamentally, these leaders see their role as creating the right conditions for all team members to take the initiative and contribute their best. They don’t try to micromanage or impose their own working style. They set the strategic direction and trust their team to get things done. And they create space for others to find purpose for themselves and develop their full potential.

As we move into this new decade, we need leaders who can tune in fully: to themselves, to others, and to the world around them.

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Leading Forum
Matias Obludzyner is a communications and leadership professional Matioblu Leadership & Communications in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The Expanding Circle: How Genuine Leaders Connect with Themselves, Connect with Others, and Make a Difference.

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Triple Corwn Leadership Leader as Coach

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:56 AM
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The Infinite Game

The Infinite Game

IN 1986, Professor Emeritus of history and literature of religion at New York University, James P. Carse, wrote a book entitled Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility. He stated that there are two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.

Carse writes that a finite game will come to an end when someone has won. Only one person can win at the end of the game, and other players may be ranked. In contrast, in an infinite game, “players cannot say when their game began, nor do they care. They do not care for the reason that their game is not bounded by time. Indeed, the only purpose of the game is to prevent it from coming to an end, to keep everyone in play.”

And Carse makes this important observation: “Finite games can be played within an infinite game, but an infinite game cannot be played within a finite game.

Intrigued by this concept, Simon Sinek builds on Carse’s idea in The Infinite Game. If there are two kinds of games, it is important to know which game we are playing. “We are more likely to survive and thrive if we play for the game we are in.” Sinek reminds us that we don’t get to choose what kind of game is being played. But we can choose if we want to play and whether we will play it with a finite or an infinite mindset.

In business, playing with an infinite mindset means building an organization to last well beyond our own leadership. It is the long game. Built to last organizations are both stable and resilient.

An infinite-minded leader does not simply want to build a company that can weather change, but one that can be transformed by it. They want to build a company that embraces surprises and adapts with them. Resilient companies may come out the other end of upheaval entirely different than they were when they went in.

Sinek states that any leader playing with an infinite mindset must follow five essential practices:

Advance A Just Cause

A Just Cause is our picture of the future—where we are going. A Just Cause must be for something (affirmative and optimistic), inclusive (open to all those who would like to contribute), service-oriented (for the primary benefit of others), resilient (able to endure political, technological and cultural change), idealistic (big, bold and ultimately unachievable).

A Just Cause is more than a goal. And this speaks to Carse’s thought that a finite game can be played within an infinite game, but an infinite game cannot be played within a finite game.” Sinek notes, “It’s easy to mistake a BHAG (big, hairy audacious goal) for a Just Cause because they can indeed be incredibly inspiring and can often take many years to achieve. But after the moon shot has been achieved, the game continues. Simply choosing another big, audacious goal is not infinite play, it’s just another finite pursuit.” But the Just Cause does provide the framework for a series of goals that ultimately advance the Just Cause.

We need to rethink our relationship with business. We are stewards. “Shortsightedness is an inherent condition of leaders who play with a finite mindset.”

Build Trusting Teams

Trusting teams are characterized by the team member’s ability to feel free to express themselves—to be vulnerable. Groups of people who simply work together are transactional in nature, motivated by a desire to just get things done. But there is an element of fear—fear of missing out, being mocked, getting in trouble, looking stupid, and not fitting in.

Fear is such a powerful motivator that it can force us to act in ways that are completely counter to our own or our organization’s best interests. Fear can push us to choose the best finite option at the risk of doing infinite damage. And in the face of fear, we hide the truth.

Ethical fading, a condition that allows people to act in unethical ways to advance their own interests, is the result of a finite mindset. And these kinds of problems are not solved by more rules and processes, but by the application of an infinite mindset.

Study Your Worthy Rivals

In a finite game, it is “us” against “them.” We see a competitor to be beaten. “If we are a player in an infinite game, however, we have to stop thinking of other players as competitors to be beaten and start thinking of them as Worthy Rivals who can help us become better players.”

There is a strategy for picking a Worthy Rival. We choose them “because there is something about them that reveals to us our weaknesses and pushes us to constantly improve … which is essential if we want to be strong enough to stay in the game.”

Prepare for Existential Flexibility

While finite minded players fear surprises and disruption, the infinite minded player is transformed by them. “Existential Flexibility is the capacity to initiate an extreme disruption to a business model or strategic course in order to more effectively advance a just cause.”

Sinek shares a great example of Existential Flexibility through the evolution of Walt Disney’s Just Cause. Walt Disney Productions had enormous success releasing Snow White and was a great place to work, until it went public. Things began to change as it became more finite and less infinite in approach. So, he founded a parallel company named WED and began work on Disneyland with an infinite mindset. Disney explains:

Disneyland will never be finished. It’s something we can keep developing and adding to. A motion picture is different. Once it’s wrapped up and sent out for processing, we’re through with it. If there are things that could be improved, we can’t do anything about them anymore. I’ve always wanted to work on something alive, something that keeps growing. We’ve got that in Disneyland.

Show the Courage to Lead

Leading with an infinite mindset is not easy. “Adopting an infinite mindset in a world consumed by the finite can absolutely cost a leader their job. The pressure we all face today to maintain a finite mindset is overwhelming.”

Maintaining an infinite mindset is hard. Very hard. It is to be expected that we will stray from the path. We are human and we are fallible. We are subject to bouts of greed, fear, ambition, ignorance, external pressure, competing interests, ego … the list goes on. To complicate matters further, finite games are seductive; they can be fun and exciting and sometimes even addictive.

Just as it is easier to focus on a fixed finite goal than an infinite vision of the future, it is easier to lead a company with a finite mindset, especially during times of struggle or downturn.

The Infinite Life Is Service

Our life is finite but played in the infinite game of life. But we can play it with an infinite mindset or a finite mindset.

If we choose to lie our lives with a finite mindset, it means we make our primary purpose to get richer or promoted faster than others. To live our lives with an infinite mindset means that we are driven to advance a Cause bigger than ourselves. We see those who share our vision as partners in the Cause and we work to build trusting relationships with them so that we may advance the common good together. We are grateful for the success we enjoy. And as we advance we work to help those around us rise. To live our lives with an infinite mindset is to live a life of service.

We are stewards.

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Fixing the Game The Focus of Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:47 PM
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The Grace to Show Respect

Grace to Show Respect

IF WE are to be successful, we need to collaborate. We don’t have the whole story. Collaboration is founded on a bedrock of respect.

John Baldoni writes in Grace: A Leader’s Guide to A Better Us, “Our culture has become more coarsened. The rancor in our political system, fueled as it is by people who do not want to listen to one another, paralyzes so much of our public discourse.” It is difficult to find a voice today that is not hindered by personal biases, political affiliations, pandering, sarcasm, and name-calling. We all need—and leaders, especially—a good dose of grace.

We stop listening when we think we know all there is to know, and we are convinced we are right. We believe that belittling other’s ideas that are in opposition to our own becomes a necessary step in protecting our own views. Instead, ask yourself, Why are they making that choice?

Tom Peters wrote in The Little Big Things, “Connect! Listen! Get the Story! (Remember: Everyone [every single one] has a story.)” In a time of crisis, we have to remember that not only do we not know everything, but those we look to for answers, don’t know everything.

We have to assume, as former CEO and Chairman of Aetna Ron Williams advocates, positive intent. We must assume that others are motivated by positive intentions. He writes in Learning to Lead that assuming positive intent is an “empowering strategy that disarms defensiveness and turns potential enemies into allies. If there’s something that will make you feel really good to say—something you are itching to say—don’t say it. Blowing up in the face of provocation is a way of losing power, not of claiming it.”

Peters goes further to say that he’s “stuck on, hooked on, wedded to,” the word thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness is “transactional,” and it “applies literally to every internal and external activity, as well as being something that resides deep within.” He adds that thoughtfulness speeds things up and reduces friction, and “it abets rather than stifles truth-telling.” And it matters most when there is disagreement.

Change management consultant Paul Meshanko, writing back in 2013 in The Respect Effect, perfectly describes the mental process through which we arrive at, and justify our disrespect of others:

Once we land on a particular orientation of how the world is or should be, it is all too easy to spoon-feed ourselves an unbalanced diet of new information that minimizes dissonance and further reinforces our existing beliefs. The resulting absence of well-thought-out, opposing views makes it all more likely that we attach a sense of moral correctness to our perspectives. It’s easy enough to convince ourselves that we’re right when we’re left alone. When you add a chorus of others (including public figures and celebrities) who espouse similar beliefs, our sense of correctness can become almost airtight.

It is this self-created and self-sustaining (through the media) polarization that subsequently encourages us to demonize those who do not share our beliefs. When we believe that others are either intellectually wrong or morally flawed, the doorway to disrespect unlocks itself as “they” become our enemies. We then rationalize to ourselves that we shouldn’t listen to our enemies because they lie. We shouldn’t compromise with them because they won’t compromise with us. No, enemies must be fought and, God willing (because we’re “right”), defeated.

In the heat of the moment, when faced with vastly divergent opinions and approaches, it is difficult to remember thoughtfulness, positive intent, respect, and grace. It is easy to give another respect when they are respectable. It’s another thing to give it when they are not. When we are in that situation, it requires that we call up something much deeper from inside ourselves. Grace is giving something of ourselves to others though it is unearned or undeserved. Demonstrating grace, like forgiveness, kindness, service, and respect, says more about who we are than who they are. It is about us, not them.

Grace, says Baldoni, “enables us to take the higher road, to think more clearly.” In our times, that’s what we need. That’s true leadership.

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Grace Little Kindnesses Matter

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Are You Ready for Recovery?

Transpersonal Leadership

AS a McKinsey & Company article stated in late March 2020:

“What leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan but behaviors and mindsets that will prevent them from overreacting to yesterday’s developments and help them look ahead.”

McKinsey cites 5 practices or mindsets that will enable leaders to bring their organizations through any turbulent times. This article will show how those who develop as transpersonal leaders are those who are best prepared to do this.

Transpersonal Leadership is a concept that my colleagues and I at LeaderShape Global have been developing for over 10 years. It is an approach that was born out of many years’ experience as corporate leaders ourselves and our experience developing organizational leaders using Emotional Intelligence approaches.

We realized that leaders could be emotionally intelligent but also manipulative and self-serving. This phenomenon is driven by excessive egos that want power, prestige, recognition, and reward. While there is nothing wrong with these drivers, per se, when they are the dominant force in decisions, rather than the needs of the organization and its stakeholders (including the community and the planet), then the problems arise. This is when the incidence of corporate scandals increases, as we have all seen in recent years. A Transpersonal Leader operates beyond their own ego and personal drivers and balances the needs of all the organization’s stakeholders. This means they are making decisions in full consciousness of their sense of purpose, ethics, and values.


This approach self-evidently enables a mindset that offers a long-term perspective. Because, if leaders are balancing the needs of stakeholders in a values-conscious way, they will not cut corners or put short term gains at the forefront of decisions. This meets the need to slow down and not overreact. It naturally gives them the tendency to look ahead at or beyond the immediate horizon. It also means that leaders whose ego is not in the driving seat will have the humility to appreciate that in a crisis (especially), they do not have all the answers and that Leadership and decision-making needs to be distributed to those who have the best knowledge and information. Those who are driven by their ego, for example, will take center stage and proclaim to have the answers, ignoring or side-lining the experts who could give a more realistic assessment of a situation, managing people’s expectations. The leader who is transpersonal will value the expertise of those around and enable that to be disseminated to achieve the best outcome.

“During a crisis, leaders must relinquish the belief that a top-down response will engender stability.” —McKinsey

Involve More People

The next area to consider is the crucial importance of distributed Leadership, which follows naturally from the transpersonal perspective. To explain further, in a crisis, using diverse perspectives enables the unthinkable to be brought to the table, it avoids groupthink and enables more effective solutions. One way to devolve leadership in times of crisis is through the organization of a network of teams that can tackle discrete responsibilities and are empowered to communicate with each other to create a complete picture before coming to decisions. Decisions that they are authorized to take. That’s right, without a need for approval from the top.

To achieve this requires not just the humility previously referred to but also transparency, trust, and effective communication. A transpersonal leader has travelled a road where these attributes have been developed, alongside a honed appreciation of how to improve judgment and decision making. The transpersonal leader learns that we have 5 decision-making processes, of which only one is conscious. Harnessing and bringing into greater awareness, the processes that lie below consciousness enables them to detach from their emotional reactions or unconscious biases. This allows them to take a pause, stand back and allow the distributed responsibilities to be exercised by teams that they have assembled, using all these capacities.

5 decision-making processThis same approach can enable a group to be assembled to look at preparedness for the post-crisis recovery. The heightened awareness of the transpersonal leader means they can be freed up from the constraints of dealing with the details of the immediate challenges of the crisis itself. Thus, the transpersonal leader can set the ‘future-focused’ group up with the autonomy to use their fully conscious decision-making processes to create a myriad of ‘what if’ options. From this diverse and open thinking comes an agility to take the best actions, as areas of clarity emerge.

So, the transpersonal leader can use their own touchstone of values and self-determination to have the confidence in backing decisions and making any tough calls along the way. Such a leader will appreciate the level of thinking from empowered teams of experts. This shared understanding of how well-considered decisions are made results in both sides trusting the other. The environment of psychological safety and optimism which follows from these principles, becomes an underpinning enabler.

“Leaders with the right temperament and character are necessary during times of uncertainty. They stay curious and flexible but can still make the tough calls, even if that makes them unpopular. They gather differing perspectives and then make the decisions, with the best interests of the organization (not their careers) in mind, without needing a full consensus.” —McKinsey

The Transpersonal Touchstone Explored

Each of us will have our own list of core values that we can populate the touchstone with. Here is one example from a leader. Some of the values on the left are integral to them; other things they are keen to develop. Which might yours be? The qualities on the right represent the way the transpersonal leader brings their values into the world and guides their actions.

Transpersonal Touchstone

Checking thinking and decisions against one’s own values and the transpersonal qualities is the foundation. This stepping back to gain clarity creates the sound mindset and behaviours that are indispensable in leading through and out the other side of any crisis. It allows boldness to be tempered with just enough prudence to maximize the upsides of the situation.

Anybody can travel the path to Transpersonal Leadership. The journey is ideally taken with the support of an accredited Transpersonal Leadership Coach. It is a path you can choose to follow to lead your organization out of the depths of a crisis through to the sunny uplands of recovery.

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Leading Forum
Danielle Grant is a Director of LeaderShape Global with many years’ experience coaching and facilitating programs at CEO and Director level. A former businesswoman, she is a thought leader in blended learning methodologies. Grant, John Knights, and Greg Young co-authored Leading Beyond The Ego: How to Become a Transpersonal Leader. For more information visit www.leadershapeglobal.com.

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The Motive Ego Free Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:17 PM
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Why You Shouldn’t Go It Alone

Why You Shouldn’t Go It Alone

OUR INDIVIDUALISTIC narrative is strong. But it holds us back. Almost anything of importance was accomplished by connecting with others. We can leverage who we are by enlisting others.

Eric George, a renowned hand surgeon, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist, shares in We: Ditch the Me Mindset and Change the World that in his field, he frequently sees “a spirit of absolute independence. It’s a mindset that, for whatever reason, makes people ignore the help readily available to them and internalize challenges, headaches, and obstacles.” This also extends to entrepreneurs and aspiring professionals as they “strive to independently achieve while ignoring the crucial relationships and resources that can help them along the way.”

Connectedness is not only about us connecting with others but the connections we make for other people. “Connectedness means looking beyond the self and requires us to focus on others and consider how our connectedness can benefit everyone around us.”

George identifies and examines six benefits or outcomes of connectedness:

Outcome#1: Discovering Our Purpose

Discovering how and where to channel our passions, interests, and talents to create shared value that we and others find meaningful. By embracing a wide breadth of diverse people, ideas, and perspectives, we become exposed to many avenues in life, which ultimately help us find where we can succeed and help others do the same.

Discovering our purpose (or purposes) in life is sometimes difficult. “Yet by embracing a mindset of connectedness, we can, at the very least, accelerate and improve the process. Rather than passively wait for our purpose to emerge, we uncover the opportunities that lay hidden in the potential connections surrounding us.”

Outcome#2: Create Partnerships

Connectedness helps us to create partnerships now and opens the door to more connections in the future. “Embracing this mindset helps us find and cultivate truly rewarding and sustainable partnerships from our sincere commitment to learning about, investing in, and survive the interests of others.” Successful people don’t just see others as a means to get things done, but the relationships as an end in themselves.

Outcome#3: Supports Perseverance

We rarely become successful without resolve and resourcefulness. Connectedness “allows us to recognize the full potential of the opportunities afforded to us and recognize that we can always surmount any obstacle with hard work, the right approach, and access to people who can support us along the way.”

Outcome#4: Cultivate Support

We don’t know everything, and we don’t know what we don’t know. We need to connect with others who we can trust and “who share our passion and contribute to our purpose. The more connected we become, the more we can find the right people to support our mission in life, and the more we can help nurture their goals and needs.”

Truthfully, we never accomplish anything of importance without people helping us along the way. No matter how difficult a surgery or miraculous its outcome, or how smart a business decision, success does not depend on “Me” but on the collective contributions of everyone supporting the organization.

Outcome#5: Gain Perspective

Perspective expands our minds with the experiences of others. It informs us and connects us with reality. We see the world from a “more informed, objective, and comprehensive point of view. Perspective enables us to fully appreciate life and the people surrounding us.” As a surgeon, connectedness allows him to “cross boundaries my patients self-construct against the external world. It allows me to help them see a world unrestricted by their injury and value what they didn’t lose.” Illuminating other perspectives is a significant part of a leader’s job.

Outcome#6: Build Trust

When it comes to medical care, trust is vital. George explains that he “must actively build trust through a process that draws heavily on connectedness and the many actions and behaviors that support it.” He continues:

Connectedness enhances my ability to establish a trusting relationship with my patients who come from a variety of backgrounds and each bring unique circumstances that often complicate the interaction.

In my experience, connectedness enhances our ability to build and sustain trust. It makes us more attentive to the needs and concerns of those around us. We become better listeners, more patient, and more inquisitive when it comes to the experiences of those with whom we meet. It also enables us to help others, By understanding people’s context—including the reasoning behind their actions or inactions, decisions or indecisions—we truly begin to understand how we can help them. As a result, we improve our chances of actually helping them, which only further strengthens their trust in us.

With a mindset of We versus Me, we can see beyond what might divide us and change the world.

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Lifes Great Question Leaders Make Connections

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:45 PM
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Are You Leading for the Right Reasons?

The Motive

YOU either lead for yourself or others. Why you took the role you now fill, affects the results you are getting.

Patrick Lencioni has penned another leadership fable that follows the discussion of two CEOs getting to the bottom of why they lead and the results they are getting from their two different mindsets. The Motive is classic Lencioni, with plenty of let’s-get to the-core-of-the-issue insights.

He writes that there are fundamentally only two motives that drive people to lead: service or reward.

Those who lead to serve “understand that sacrifice and suffering are inevitable in this pursuit and that serving others is the only valid motivation for leadership.

Those who lead for rewards often associated with leadership “see leadership as the prize for years of hard work and are drawn by its trappings: attention, status, power, money.”

When leaders are motivated by personal reward, they will avoid the unpleasant situations and activities that leadership requires. They will calculate the personal economics of uncomfortable and tedious responsibilities—responsibilities that only a leader can do—and try to avoid them. This inevitably leaves the people in their charge without direction, guidance, and protection, which eventually hurts those people and the organization as a whole. Employees will express their disbelief as to how their leader could have been so negligent and irresponsible, yet it makes perfect sense in light of his or her motive for becoming a leader.

Lencioni acknowledges that although we all try to do the right thing at times, we do fall short. But a little self-examination will reveal that one of these motivations is predominant in our thinking and explain the impact we’re having on the health of the entire organization.

What Do Reward-Centered Leaders Avoid?

When you are motivated by reward as a leader, you typically avoid these five situations or responsibilities:

1. Developing the Leadership Team

In some cases, leaders delegate team-building to their head of HR. Let me be very clear; this does not work. And that’s not a knock against HR folks. If people on a leadership team don’t believe that the leader sees team development as one of his or her most critical roles, they’re not going to take it seriously, and it’s not going to be effective. The leader simply must take personal responsibility for, and participate actively in, the task of building his or her team.

2. Managing Subordinates (And Making Them Manage Theirs)

Managing individuals is about helping them set the general direction of their work, ensuring that it is aligned with and understood by their peers, and staying informed enough to identify potential obstacles and problems as early as possible. It is also about coaching leaders to improve themselves behaviorally to make it more likely that they will succeed.

3. Having Difficult and Uncomfortable Conversations

Failing to confront people quickly about small issues is a guarantee that they will become big issues. And if you’re not a responsibility-centered leader, one who understands that if the leader doesn’t do it, no one will, then you’re probably going to find a reason, almost any reason, to ignore those messy issues and do something else.

4. Running Great Team Meetings

Meetings are the setting, the arena, the moment when the most important discussions and decisions take place. What could be more important?

Think about it this way. The best place to observe whether a surgeon is good at her job, a teacher is good at his, or a quarterback good at his, is to watch them during an operation, a class session, or a game, respectively. What’s the best place to observe a leader? That’s right—a meeting.

5. Communicating Constantly and Repeatedly to Employees

Most CEOs don’t hate the idea of communicating to employees. But the majority of them greatly underestimate the amount of communication that is necessary…. Unfortunately, many CEOs refuse to repeat themselves again and again and again and again…. No reasonable human being has ever left a company because management communicated too much. “That’s it. I’m going somewhere where leaders tell me something once and never repeat it again!”

Each of these points ends with a section of questions “to help you reflect on your own attitude and discern whether you may be struggling to some extent with reward-centered leadership.”

What motivates us to lead? If it is not service, we aren’t really leading; we are simply draining the organization and its people for our own gain. Lencioni encourages “those who chose to embrace responsibility-centered leadership—even if they were formerly focused on rewards—will come to see activities and situations that they once viewed as tedious and unpleasant as the real work of a selfless leader. And eventually, start to enjoy them.”

But more than that, we are teaching future generations that the only kind of leadership that matters is responsibility-based or service-centered leadership. If reward-centered leadership is the norm, “the wrong people will aspire to be managers, CEOs, and civic leaders, condemning society to more of the same or generations to come.” The cost is too high.

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Leaders Greatest Return Four Disciplines of Organizational Health

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10 Lessons from Porter Moser’s All In

Porter Moser All In

PORTER MOSER is the head men's basketball coach at Loyola University Chicago. Known for what he does on the court, he has guided the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers to three post-season berths, including a historic run to the 2018 NCAA Final Four and back-to-back MCV regular-season championships in 2018 and 2019. But it is his reputation and impact for what he does developing people off the court that is his legacy.

In All In: Driven by Passion, Energy, and Purpose, he shares the values and beliefs, the ups and downs of his career, and the lessons he has taken from them. All In is filled with wisdom and lessons from a life leading others to their potential. I’ve extracted some of them for our mutual benefit:

How you think is how you feel, how you feel is how you act, and how you act is what defines you. I believe completely in the progression of these three statements. If you’re thinking good thoughts, you’re going to have a bounce in your step. You’re going to act in a certain way. Likewise, if you’re thinking negative thoughts, if you have a “poor me” attitude, that’s how people will perceive you.

Talk to yourself, don’t listen to yourself; feed yourself with positive encouragement; and chose faith instead of fear.

We have a team rule: “No complaining, no excuses, and no entitlement.” It helps us guard against energy vampires. But there is a difference between being an energy vampire and lacking confidence. As a coach, I think it is important to sense when a player lacks confidence. When I see that happening, I’ll do what I can to lift him up. There is also a difference between being an energy vampire and being stressed. Sometimes we’re negative because we’re stressed. The key to preventing stress from turning you into an energy vampire is learning how to manage it.

Adversity doesn’t define us; how we respond to adversity does. Character is how you respond when things don’t go your way. I have a mantra: “Fall seven, rise eight.” (It’s also a line from Proverbs 24:16—“though they fall seven times, they will rise again.”) No matter how many times I might fall, I always remind myself to get up, to keep fighting, to persevere.

When you’re humble—when you admit your mistakes—you build trust. You show that, in the end, you’re concerned with something beyond your own accomplishments or achievements.

Perseverance is continued effort in the face of difficulty. Resiliency is seeing the problem and adjusting to that difficulty. Perseverance is strength; resiliency is strategy.

Being competitive means that you find a way to realize your vision. If one path closes, you find another one.

When you feel entitled, you think that you don’t need to contribute, and you don’t worry about what value you bring to the table.

Mentorship is an important part of being a professional. I want my assistants to know that I am trying to help them do their jobs; I want my players to know that I want them to be successful student-athletes.

Sometimes when people are giving you advice, they are telling you what’s important to them, not what’s important to you. That’s when you need people in your circle of influence who truly care about your happiness and can help you reaffirm what’s important to you.

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Getting To US Eleven Rings

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:36 PM
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quickpoint: Leaders Build Faith

Leaders Build Faith

THE JOB of a leader is to build faith.

The New Testament says that faith is confidence in what we hope for and conviction about what we do not see. It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. In short, faith is the belief in the realization of vision.

Jonathan Swift said that “vision is the art of seeing the invisible.” Faith is the belief that it will happen. The process is to separate the important from the peripheral—to lift people from their present reality to a future possibility. Embracing a vision is an act of faith. Without it, there is no reason to pursue it.

Faith is like trust and based on it, but I would suggest that it is more than that. Faith is trust infused with passion. It drives us forward. Faith changes our behavior generally and how we interact with others specifically. While virtually invisible, faith is powerful. It is what brings life to leadership relationships.

Leaders with great power also have great faith and build that faith in others.

Orison Swett Marden, author, and founder of SUCCESS magazine elaborates on the importance of faith in any endeavor:

Faith is the best substitute for genius; in fact, it is closely allied to genius.

Faith is the great leader in every achievement. It shows the path which leads the way to our possibilities. Faith is the faculty or instinct which knows, because it sees the possibilities within; it does not hesitate to urge us to undertake great things, because it sees reserves in us capable of accomplishing them.

No one has ever yet been able to make a satisfactory explanation of the philosophy of faith. What is that which will hold a person to their task, keep up their courage and hope under the most trying, heartrending conditions, which will enable them to endure with fortitude, even cheerfulness, all sorts of suffering, the pangs of poverty, and which will sustain and reassure them, after their last dollar has gone, when friends and even their family and those they love best misunderstand them, or do not believe in them? What is it that sustains and enheartens them so that they endure what would them him a hundred times if they were without it? The world stands in wonder before the heroes who apparently lose everything in the world but their faith in what they had set their hearts upon.

Faith always takes the first step forward. It is a soul sense, a spiritual foresight, which peers far beyond the physical eye’s vision, a courier which leads the way, opens the closed door, sees beyond the obstacles, and points to the path which the less spiritual faculties could not see.

It is a superb faith greater than any obstacle that has made the great discoveries, that has been the great inventor, the great engineer, the great achiever in every line of human endeavor.

Adapted from He Can Who Thinks He Can by Orison Swett Marden (1908)

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Marden He Can Who Thinks He Can Wordsworth

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 AM
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Is a Lack of Intentionality Holding You Back?

Sanborn Intention Imperative

WHAT ARE the defining characteristics of successful leadership?

Mark Sanborn identifies them as clarity and intentionality in The Intention Imperative. Clarity, he says, “tells you where you’re headed” and intentionality is “the consistent action you’ll take to get there.”

To explain, Sanborn takes us back to when Domino’s found clarity and discovered how they were going to get there. With clarity of purpose that took them back to their roots, and intentionality, they became an e-commerce company that happens to sell pizza. As a result, Dominos stock has risen 5000 percent since 2008, outperforming all of the world’s largest tech companies.

Leading with clarity and intentionality makes the difference. He offers the following chart to illuminate the effect of clarity and intentionality on our leadership effectiveness.

Sanborn Intention Imperative

The quadrant of No Leadership is negligent leadership—no direction and no way to get there. Vague Leadership has a bias for action but lacks a clear idea of where they’re going. Wishful Leadership knows where they want to go but haven’t figured out the how or aren’t taking consistent action to get there. Intentional leadership is effective leadership. “Intentional leadership is knowing where you want to go and taking consistent action in the world as it is, not the world as it was, to get there.” There is a lot contained in that last statement and is the subject of this book.

Intentional Leadership consists of three imperatives: Inspiration, Culture, and Emotion.

The Culture Imperative

Culture gets a lot of attention and is considered critical to success, but few organizations actually do much about it. At best, it becomes an HR function.

Sanborn defines culture as “what we think and believe, which then determines what we do and what we accomplish.” He lists six reasons why it matters so much, but this reason caught my attention. I had never looked at it from this perspective. He says, “Culture is a corporate immune system that protects against variance, decline, or abandonment by identifying and combating threatening forces like toxic partners, disjointed processes, and bad decisions.”

Culture often takes a back seat—though we know better—because we focus on the wrong things or think it is all about making employees happy. “Making people happy isn’t the job of an intentional leader. The job of an intentional leader is giving employees the tools—the philosophy, the training, the communication, and the incentives—to be successful.” Sanborn offers five levers to create, change, and/or maintain culture—intentionally.

The Inspiration Imperative

Inspiration comes from purpose and the mission. It’s more than motivation or engagement which are “task-focused and lack the sustaining power of inspiration.”

Inspiring leadership begins with you. You find it in yourself first so that you can bring it out in others. Inspiration can be found in solitude, those you associate with, curiosity, a healthy sense of humor, gratefulness, service and exercise. “To find your purpose is to find your inspiration.” From this foundation you can guide others to their inspiration.

Sanborn offers ten tools for inspiration. Connection with your team, your example, empathy, linking purpose to work, providing challenges and education, appreciation, and a good story are among the ten.

The Emotion Imperative

We have entered the emotion economy. The customer wants to feel successful after the fact, not just happy. “Are you happier you did business with us than with someone else?”

You want customers happy they chose you—to feel successful. “The old notion that a company merely needs to provide a good or service withers away when we start to understand that it is not the product or service itself that matters—what matters is which emotion your company elicits from its customers.”

The intentional leader knows that this goes beyond customer service. That’s part of it. “A customer’s emotions start well before they enter your sales funnel. The new economy has expanded the points at which your potential customers will first interact with your company. Across all levels of your organization, ask yourself how each impacts the customer’s happiness and feelings of success. This includes marketing, product design, sales, and, yes, customer service.”

There are a lot of great insights in this book. Through a series of case studies that go beyond the usual suspects—a parking garage, High Point University, Acuity Insurance, Savannah Bananas baseball, Texas Roadhouse, and Envisioning Green landscaping—and interviews, he walks us through the thinking behind intentional leadership and its three imperatives to see how they connect. Here is a sampling of the comments from organizations featured in the book:

Nido Qubein, president of High Point University: “I just get in front of our team. I walk around and pat people on the back, shake hands, share a laugh. It’s not complicated. I make time for moments of joy each day, and the time I spend in the café talking to students and staff members makes me feel good. Students talk selfies with me. If a student is on their phone talking to Mom and Dad, I grab it and talk to their parents. I’m present.”

Ben Salzmann, CEO Acuity Insurance: “You can’t innovate in a vacuum. If you take the best genius and give them a year, feed ‘em the best food and lock ‘em in a room—a year later they don’t look so smart. Take the same person and let them talk and look around and interact, and they will come up with great innovations. Stimulus is critical.”

Kent Taylor, founder and CEO of Texas Roadhouse: “If we think about a new idea, I run it through twenty people—managing partners, market partners, kitchen managers, service managers, meat cutters. I don’t create ideas in a distant office. When it comes to employees, I am always asking, Are they happy? Do they enjoy their job? That’s important because I believe that happy employees create happy guests, which creates happy accountants!

Erika Johns, co-owner of Envisioning Green: “Our culture is fun and positive. We aren’t afraid to laugh and joke around, but we know how to work hard. You spend more time with your co-workers than your family a lot of the time, so it’s important to have some fun at work.”

All of the examples point to the fact that inspiration, culture, and emotion, are created and maintained with intentional leadership. Sanborn completes the book with thirty things that you can do now to lead intentionally based in reality—the world as it is.

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What is Leadership Culture Engine

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:59 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership


8 Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success

Building the Best

LEADERSHIP, says John Eades, is “inspiring, empowering, and service in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.” In Building the Best he tells how to do just that. To that end he presents 8 practical principles you can use to elevate others .

Principle 1: Use High Levels of Love and Discipline to Elevate Others

In terms of the workplace, Eades defines love as contributing to someone’s long-term success, and well-being and discipline as promoting standards in order for an individual to chose to be at his or her best. With love and discipline as a foundation, we can use the following seven principles to elevate others.

Eades presents five leadership styles that we can fall into, but only high love and discipline will be effective in elevating others. You can take a free leadership style assessment on the LearnLoft website.

5 Leadership Styles


Principle 2: Without Strong Relationships, You Can’t Lead

Leadership is relationships. Consistently demonstrating good character, showing you care for others, and your willingness to share your expertise with others builds trust with your team.

Principle 3: Culture Starts with You, But Your People Prove It

The cultural values you live will be evident in the behavior of your people. Four elements to consider when building a culture are safety ( emotionally safe), Unity (belonging and mutual respect), positivity (belief in possibilities), and energy (encouraged to produce and grow).

Principle 4: People Persevere Because of Purpose Not Pay

Purpose is derived from values, vision, and mission. “The most important thing frontline managers can do is connect their specific team to the purpose of their work.” By connecting people to the overarching purpose you elevate them to the possibilities their work contributes to the whole.

Principle 5: Goals Aren’t Achieved Without Priorities Put into Action

Break the goal down step-be-step. “To ensure you don’t unintentionally veer of course, come up with the top priorities that will help achieve your big goal.”

Principle 6: The Instant You Lower Your Standards Is the Instant Performance Erodes

Your standards define what an excellent culture looks like. “Standards produce behavior, behaviors become habits, and habits lead to results.”

Principle 7: Accountability Is an Advantage, Make It Your Obligation

Accountability often has a negative sound to it. But that is usually the result of the lack of accountability from the beginning. Accountability is meant to keep people on track and to exceed expectations. Feedback is done through direct dialogues. Eades offers systems to help do this right. “Being a leader of consequence, where accountability is at the center of everything you do, will lead to improved performance.”

Principle 8: Coaching Unlocks Potential and Elevates Performance

“While a team can function autonomously, a strong, dedicated leader plays an integral role in pushing people to new heights of development. They do this by focusing on coaching their people for role development and going beyond the role.” Eades provides a model for role development that shows you how to align your coaching to each of the for stages of role development.

To maintain the mindset of elevating others, Eades urges us to say to ourselves as we go throughout our day, “Prepare to serve.” On your way to work, as situations change during the day, as you enter your house at night, think “prepare to serve.” Your attitude will be reflected in your leadership behavior.

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Lift Conscious Success

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:56 AM
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7 Principles to Lead with Imagination

Lead With Imagination

IMAGINATION is about seeing what others don’t see. In a disruptive world, we need leaders with more imagination. We all have the capacity for imagination and applied it has the power to unlock or fullest potential.

Brian Paradis was the Chief Financial Officer for Florida Hospital when he was tasked with leading the troubled organization in 2006. Plagued with doubt and inexperience, he records his journey in Lead with Imagination, to turn the enterprise around.

Lead with Imagination he writes is about “how to lead and how to do it with imagination. It is first about how to be, about character, before checklists and a list of to-dos.” It’s about “how to release yourself and those you lead from the constraints of the mind’s own making and those of our organizations.”

This is a powerful book. Honest, straightforward, and insightful. The lessons Paradis has learned on his journey, we can learn along with him. He cites a passage from General Gordon Sullivan’s book, Hope Is Not a Method, that is particularly instructive. Sullivan was a primary inheritor of a U.S. Army in shambles after Vietnam.

Today’s problems can be so close, so intense, that they become like blinders. Getting beyond today begins by imagining your organization out in the future. Ask yourself “What could be?” Postulate the new paradigm, and then imagine your organization in it. Many people seem uncomfortable with this process. They see it as too much art and too little science—as irrelevant theology in a world that has deadlines to meet. It is not. It is how the Army’s leaders of the 1970s and 1980s built the Army that was successful in the Persian Gulf War. It is how successful leaders in business, in all walks of life, in fact, operate: by keeping their eyes on today and on the vision—always moving forward.

Imagination is about removing those blinders Sullivan describes. Below, I have reproduced his summary of each of Paradis’ seven principles. You will need to read the stories in each of these chapters to get the full impact of his message.

1. Love in All Interactions

Love is the foundation, the soil, and the fuel for imagination. Love is both power and powerful. An act, service, or business endeavor done in love universally turns out better. However, love is hard. It is much easier to give in to fear, cynicism, and self-interest than to lead, live, and serve with love.

Paradis says love should be our brand, first inside our organizations so that it can radiate outside our organizations to whomever we serve.

2. Out of the Comfort Zone: Leaning into Authenticity and Humility

Once you commit to the principle of love, a high hurdle presents itself when leaning into authenticity in your leadership. At the same time, you must become self-aware about the influence your ego casts. Your ego must be managed. There is not a simple formula for this work. The struggle is the heart of this part of the journey to lead with imagination. It is difficult, if not impossible, to move forward effectively without consistency and balance to your words matching your actions.

Authenticity and humility build trust.

I end where I began: authentically making mistakes, and in humility, saying sorry, asking for forgiveness, and admitting that sometimes I just don’t know. …This is the place where you will earn the trust of the people you have the privilege to lead as a servant.

3. Chaos, Calm, and A Canvas: Creating the Environment That Matters

A leader’s primary job is to set the stage, not perform on it. If you want to lead with imagination, you must unleash the power, capacity, and energy of the many and release the stranglehold of the few—even if the few includes you. This is creative work. We often use the language of ‘creating culture’; however, we don’t think enough about what those words mean. This is work that involves careful thought and consideration of every decision we make as another brushstroke applies the paint, either moving us toward a performance masterpiece of moving us away from it.

4. The Act of Fearlessness: Practicing Vulnerability and Right Risk-Taking

Vulnerability is about putting yourself in harm’s potential way, or ‘out there,’ in order to accomplish something. It requires clear and creative action. It exposes you. In that place of exposure, we move from preparing to lead to leading with imagination. First, we take risks personally, then we can begin taking right risks organizationally. This is where the trifecta of imagination, creativity, and innovation get their solid foothold in what might be described as virtuous momentum.

5. Tolerating Curiosity

Curiosity starts with questions. Both quality and quantity matter. Asking them is less than half the process. Holding the answer open, suspending judgment, questioning: do we even have the right answer yet? That is the larger half. That is the art.

Curiosity is next about pursuing this process within the team, designing the space both physically and psychologically that is safe and collaborative, and tolerating the possible inefficiency of a ‘best idea wins’ mind-set. It is being curious about customers and stakeholders, anchored with empathy. Far too many times, we stop asking and listening, believing we know the answers and leaving the most important insights undiscovered. Finally, curiosity is about being relentless and disciplined about the process.

6. The Misunderstanding About Humor

Laughter creates a runway for love to land on, and then take off again. Life is serious, to be sure. Organizations are serious, too, but they are made up of humans. And because of that, humor contributes an essential living element to culture. Humor makes us human. It connects us. It gives us energy and capacity to handle stress and challenge. It lifts us. If we believe people are our greatest organizational capacity, then infusing humor into an enterprise is a high return on investment and undervalued as a creative and cultural force. Humor opens a pathway to breakthroughs and new insights. It becomes a competitive advantage.

7. Connecting the Dots: Doing Whatever It Takes

Leadership is hard work. Leading with imagination and leading for results require skill and competence, constant self-evaluation, a servant’s heart, and a relentlessness to get it ‘mostly’ right. It is about asking the important and difficult questions of yourself and of the organization and waiting for the answers. It is about engaging and encouraging what is working and owning and dealing with what is not. It is about finding the way and doing whatever job needs to be done to support the team. It is about continuously and consistently imagining the vision, communicating it, and taking daily action toward it. Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, has described the ‘long line’ or vision of musical piece. He explains how the ‘line’ is easily lost with too much attention to single notes or short passages. As leaders, it is our constant job to keep bringing our organizations and enterprises back to the long line of the music and connecting the dots back to the big why.

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Managing in the Gray Making the Impossible Possible

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:55 PM
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Great Leaders Have No Rules

Great Leaders Have No Rules

THERE ARE well-intentioned behaviors and assumptions about leadership that we have accepted over the years that really don’t serve us well. Kevin Kruse has identified ten such assumptions and provided effective counter-thinking in Great Leaders Have No Rules.

His goal is to “teach you how to be both the boss everyone wants to work for and the high achiever every CEO wants to hire—all without drama, stress, or endless hours in the office.”

The ten principles highlighted below are well supported with research, the experience of Kruse and many interviews. Some of them will immediately resonate with you, others will take some consideration. Here they are:

1. Close Your Open-Door Policy

The idea is to promote transparency, trust, and information flow. But leapfrogging the chain of command, dependency, and the productivity nightmare it creates, to name a few of the unintended consequences of this idea, make it worth overhauling. It is a passive solution to trust and information flow. It can also discourage autonomy, empowerment. It’s better to have office hours, set ground rules, have weekly one-on-one meetings, and a scheduled system of communication.

2. Shut Off Your Smartphone

While smartphone activities can give you a big dopamine hit, they are distracting, they diminish brainpower, contribute to stress, accidents and fatalities, and smartphone surveillance impedes candor. Put them away and limit your access during the day. It will improve your safety and focus.

3. Have No Rules

Principles do more and go further than any rule ever could. Principles are less micromanaging and more like guardrails. “Instead of rules, leaders need to hire talent who can be trusted, make company values actionable, set guidelines, and be willing to coach those who make honest mistakes.”

4. Be Likable, Not Liked

Wanting to be liked is normal, but it makes it difficult to make tough choices and give candid feedback. Leadership is not about you. It’s about what’s best for those you lead. You can be tough and tender. “You should try to be likable, without caring whether you are liked.” It’s about results.

5. Lead with Love

John Wooden said it best, “I will not like you all the same, but I will love you all the same.” That’s a tough concept to get sometimes. Kruse writes, “Whether I like you, and whether you like me, is irrelevant. In our daily interactions, I will lead with love. Who said leadership is easy?” Like and love are two different things. Like is an emotion. Love is a decision.

6. Crowd Your Calendar

Throw out your to-do list. “Great leaders actually schedule everything. Instead of placing tasks on a to-do list, they pick a date, time, and duration and schedule it on their calendar. This is the only guaranteed way to know that you are investing your minutes in alignment with your values and goals.”

7. Play Favorites

People are different. So, if we are treating them the same, that isn’t fair. Standards apply equally to everyone. But people who perform better and are more engaged deserve to be treated better and have their strengths developed. “Great leaders take the time to identify each person’s strengths and then align opportunities and career path options to take advantage of them.”

8. Reveal Everything (Even Salaries)

Radical transparency “enables team members to move fast, adapt to change, and make wise decisions and reduces their need to knock on your door with ‘got a minute’ questions.”

9. Show Weakness

Being able to show weakness is a sign of courage and confidence. It is most often wise to keep your internal anxieties to yourself, but vulnerability builds trust. A culture of trust and psychological safety reduces the magnitude of mistakes and fosters innovation.

10. Leadership Is Not A Choice

Leadership is influence. In that sense, that includes all of us, all the time. I define leadership as intentional influence so that we see it not as a passive activity but as a condition that we need to take responsibility for. Nevertheless, we are always “on,” and we need to keep that in mind at work, at home, among friends, and with everyone with whom we come into contact. We are representing a worldview. Kruse stresses leading by example—taking responsibility for the change you want to see. “If leadership is influence, then leadership isn’t a choice.”

He concludes with a choice we all need to make. “Will you live your life on autopilot, or will you lead with intent? Are you leading in a positive direction or are you leading in a negative direction? How will you lead today?

One of the great features of Kruse’s book is that he ends each chapter with a section titled, “How Might You Apply This If You’re A … manager, sales professional, sports coach, military officer, and/or parent. Extremely practical and designed to help you implement the principles he discusses immediately. Great Leaders Have No Rules is well-written and persuasive and just what you need to increase your leadership effectiveness.

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Advice You Can Use Colin Powell

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:23 AM
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36 Lessons for Business & Life from Trillion Dollar Coach Bill Campbell

Trillion Dollar Coach

BILL CAMPBELL was one of the most influential background players in Silicon Valley. He helped to build some of Silicon Valley’s greatest companies including Google, Apple, and Intuit and to create over a trillion dollars in market value.

In Trillion Dollar Coach, authors Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle, state that “without a doubt, Bill Campbell was one of the people most integral to Google’s success. Without him, the company would not be where it was today.” Campbell was a coach, mentor, and friend to Steve Jobs spending many Sunday afternoons walking and talking. He coached many others including Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg, John Hennessy, former President of Stanford University, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.

He was simply known as “coach” in part because he was a coach of the Columbia University football team from 1974 to 1979, but mostly for his business mentoring. Campbell worked with individuals, but he coached teams. “Coaching is the best way to mold effective people into powerful teams.” Campbell coached people to coach teams. “The best coach for any team is the manager who leads that team. Being a good coach is essential to being a good manager and leader. Coaching is no longer a specialty; you cannot be a good manager without being a good coach.”

Remarkably, he repeatedly declined compensation except for some Google stock that he donated to charity. “When asked about his habit of eschewing compensation, Bill would say that he had a different way of measuring his impact, his own kind of yardstick. I look at all the people who’ve worked for me, or I’ve helped in some way, he would say, and I count up how many are great leaders now. That’s how I measure success.”

From their own experience with Campbell and with stories from the many lives he impacted, the authors have assembled his thoughts and principles about business and life—and importantly how to bring people together. They are listed below but get the book to read the stories that illuminate the thinking behind the principles.

Your Title Makes You A Manager, Your People Make You A Leader.
To be a good leader, you first need to be a good manager. Don’t demand respect, rather accrue it.

It’s the People.
The top priority of any manger is the well-being and success of her people.

Start with Trip Reports.
To build rapport and better relationships among team members, start team meetings with trip reports or other types of personal, non-business topics.

5 Words on A White Board.
Have a structure for one-on-one’s and take the time to prepare for them, as they are the best way to help people be more effective and to grow.

Best Idea, Not Consensus.
The manager's job is to run a decision-making process that ensures all perspectives get heard and considered, and, if necessary, to break ties and make the decision. The goal of consensus leads to “groupthink” and inferior decisions. There isn’t a head at the Round Table, but there is a throne behind it.

Lead Based on First Principles.
Define the “first principles” for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundation for the company or product, and help guide the decision from those principles.

Manage the Aberrant Genius.
Aberrant geniuses—high-performing but difficult team members—should be tolerated and even protected, as long as their behavior isn’t unethical or abusive and their value outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues, and teams.

Money’s Not Just About the Money.
Compensating people well demonstrates love and respect and ties them strongly to the goals of the company.

Innovation Is Where the Crazy People Have Stature.
The purpose of a company is to bring a product vision to life. All the other components are in service to product.

Let People Leave with Their Heads Held High.
If you have to let people go, be generous, treat them well, and celebrate their accomplishments.

Build an Envelope of Trust.
Listen intently, practice complete candor, and be an evangelist for courage by believing in people more than they believe in themselves.

Only Coach the Coachable.
The traits that make a person coachable include honesty and humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.

Practice Free-Form Listening.
Listen to people with your full and undivided attention—don’t think ahead to what you’re going to say next—and ask questions to get to the real issue.

No Gap Between Statements and Fact.
Be relentlessly honest and candid, couple negative feedback with caring, give feedback as soon as possible, and if the feedback is negative, deliver it privately.

Don’t Stick It in Their Ear.
Don’t tell people what to do, offer stories and help guide them to the best decisions for them.

Be the Evangelist for Courage.
Believe in people more than they believe in themselves and push them to be more courageous.

Full Identity Front and Center.
People are most effective when they can be completely themselves and bring their full identity to work.

Team First.
You can’t get anything done without a team so the most important thing to look for in people is a team-first attitude. That the team wins has to be the most important thing.

Work the Team, Then the Problem.
When faced with a problem or opportunity, the first step is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.

Pick the Right Players.
The top characteristics to look for are smarts and hearts: the ability to learn fast, a willingness to work hard, integrity, grit, empathy, and a team-first attitude.

Pair People.
Peer relationships are critical and often overlooked, so seek opportunities to pair people up on projects or decisions.

Everyone Needs to Be at the Table.
Winning depends on having the best team, and the best teams have more women.

Solve the Biggest Problem.
Identify the biggest problem, the “elephant in the room,” bring it front and center, and tackle it first.

Don’t Let the Bitch Sessions Last.
Air all the negative issues, but don’t dwell on them. Move on as fast as possible.

Winning Right.
Strive to win, but always win right, with commitment, teamwork, and integrity.

Leaders Lead.
When things are going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders. When you’re losing, recommit to the cause. Lead.

Fill the Gaps Between People.
Listen observe, and fill the communication and understanding gaps between people. Spot those fissures before they become deep and permanent, and act to fix them by filling in the information gaps and correcting and miscommunication.

Permission to Be Empathetic.
Leading teams becomes a lot more joyful, and the teams more effective, when you know and care about people.

It’s OK to Love.
The people on your team are people, and the team becomes stronger when you break down the walls between the professional and human personas and embrace the whole person with love.

To Care About People, You Have To Care About People.
Ask about their lives outside of work, understand their families, and when things get rough, show up.

Cheer Demonstrably for People and Their Success.
Don’t just sit there, stand up and show them the love for the work they are doing.

Always Build Community.
Build communities inside and outside of work. A place is much stronger when people are connected. Invest in creating real, emotional bonds between people.

Help People.
Be generous with your time, connections, and other resources.

Love the Founders.
Hold a special reverence for—and protect—the people with the most vision and passion for the company. Campbell held a very special place in his heart for the people who have the guts and skills to start companies.

Build Relationships Whenever You Can.
When you’re in the elevator, passing someone in the hallway, or see your teammates in the cafeteria, take the time to stop and chat.

Positive Human Values Generate Positive Business Outcomes.
There are things we all care about as people—love, family, money, attention, power, meaning, purpose—that are factors in any business situation. That to create effective teams, you need to understand and pay attention to these human values.

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Leader as Coach Coaching Effect

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:54 AM
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The Truth About You

Truth About Yo

IN THE January/February 2019 issue of Communication Arts, Ernie Schenck writes about two kinds of truth: authentic and inauthentic. Authentic truth is who you are. Inauthentic truth is who you are when everyone is looking. It’s accepting what the loudest voices around you are saying because you don’t want to look bad. It’s commonplace in politics, but we see it everywhere. It’s pandering. Not leadership. It’s denigrating. Not serving.

Inauthentic leadership is selfish. We use it to get something. To get us from A-to-B. As leaders, we need to be sure we are walking our talk. If we talk about service to others, then everything we do must be guided by that value. If we believe in building others, then everything we do must build others without regard for our own position. If we are empathetic, then our criticisms are constructive and measured, not strident.

The alignment between who we are—our authentic truth—and what we say and do is critical. A leader who acts or his or her authentic truth is a leader that can be trusted. If we jump on every bandwagon that comes through, we can be perceived as not knowing our own mind. When we lead from who we are and not from where everyone else thinks we should, more than just being trusted, we can more easily adapt, grow, and lead in a thoughtful and measured manner.

Here are Schenck’s thoughts on truth in advertising from The Truth Is Out There. Kind Of.:

The authentic truth. It’s absolute. It’s unshakeable. Its power to propel us as creatives mighty beyond measure. But there is another truth. It is feeble. It is disingenuous. And it is something we’ve rarely seen before. The kind of truth that’s fleeting. Fabricated. Cloaked in insincerity. And if we’re not careful, it can lure us onto a bandwagon that at best is uncomfortable and at worst can suck the spirit out of us. Call it the inauthentic truth.

We all want to ally ourselves with brands that have hitched their star to a purpose. Who doesn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want to work on a Patagonia, a Ben & Jerry’s, a Dove—brands that found their true north long ago, way before purpose became trendier than a retro flip phone or a pair of Louis Vuitton workout pants.

But what about the brands that are late to the party, that feel compelled to stand for something more than just a great car or a phenomenal running shoe or the smartphone to end all smartphones for no other reason than it’s what the market expects right now. I don’t need to spell it out for you. You know who they are. The poseurs. The opportunists. The ones that are willing to embrace any cause, any movement, any social activism if it means getting themselves a place at the table.

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12 Keys Self Awareness Grounded

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:25 PM
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Everything Begins with a Day One

This is Day One

EADERSHIP IS intentional influence. Leadership is about being intentional. It’s about taking responsibility for everything we do. We affect others in ways we never imagined. It is prudent of us then to be intentional about how we live out our life. It gives us the moral authority to lead. The value we add becomes the meaning in our life.

This is Day One by Drew Dudley is about choosing to lead. Everything worthwhile in life begins with a Day One. “If you want to be a leader, chose to be a leader today. Repeat that choice every day. It doesn’t matter if you failed to do it yesterday or if you’ve done it every day for a decade: every new day begins with a recommitment to that choice.”

And it’s a daily choice. With everything in our environment to distract us from that choice, to push us into being reactive rather than proactive, some days that choice will take a huge effort. But the payoff is big.
Your most enduring legacy will very likely have nothing to do with your plans. The greatest impact you will have on the people around you and the organizations of which you are a part will almost always be a result of the unplanned consequences of your everyday actions.

It’s the daily behaviors that add up to a successful life—to successful leadership. So we must plan to make a difference.

Our leadership plan must revolve around who we want to be—our values. We must identify and define those values and then do something every day that embodies those values. “When you no longer must consciously align your behavior with your values—when it happens by instinct—you have created a ‘personal culture of leadership.’”

Dudley has identified six values in his life that drive his behavior every day. Yours may be different. They are articulated through six questions that when asked in advance of your day can lead to a change in your behavior. His six questions are:

1. Impact—What have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership?

“Leadership recognized is leadership created. What if we all worked to create a culture in which the true measure of our lives is how many people smile when our name is spoken twenty years after they last saw us.” Answering this question “will create moments of impact that remind others they have mattered, do matter, and will matter in the future.” Let people know they are leaders to us.

2. Courage—What did I try today that might not work, but I tried it anyway?

Courage is demonstrated through action. “Effective personal leadership is the willingness to honestly ask ourselves: ‘In what areas of my life am I settling? Leadership is having the courage to be honest with yourself about where in your life you are allowing yourself to settle and taking action to ensure you don’t do it for a single day longer.”

3. Empowerment—What did I do today to move someone else closer to a goal?

We are responsible. “One of the reasons so few people put up their hand when asked if they are a leader is they’ve accepted a situation where the things that they are chasing in their life—the things they believe will make them happy—can only come from someone else.” A driver in New Orleans told Dudley, “We serve others whenever we help them move closer to one of their goals. For some people that might mean an educational goal, a career goal, or a goal related to their legacy. But let me tell you, the most important goals you can help someone reach are the goals related to their dignity. People need to feel seen, they need to feel understood, they need to feel connected to another person. Too many people in this world don’t have those goals met.” Acting for the success of others.

4. Growth—What did I do today to make it more likely someone will learn something?

Expand your capacity. “Go too long without appreciable growth in your life and not only does it become difficult to see yourself as a leader, it become difficult to feel like you matter.” I liked this statement: “You can’t lead on a need-to-know-only basis. You can fix things, you can maintain, but you can’t lead.” We must continually expose ourselves to the new and uncomfortable. “It’s not enough to be supportive when you see opportunities to help people, you must be a catalyst for creating those opportunities and forgiving others the tools to create them for themselves. Forget power, influence, and control: make people feel like they’re better when you’re around and they will follow you anywhere.”

5. Class—When did I elevate instead of escalate today?

We can choose our response. We don’t have to operate on autopilot. “Class is elevating a situation when your instincts push you to escalate, when it would be easier to escalate and when you have every right to escalate. The difference lies in your goal for the resolution of the situation: elevating means trying to succeed, escalating means trying to win.” Treat people better than they deserve to be treated.

6. Self-Respect—What did I do today to be good to myself?

“The fact that we have the rest of our lives ahead of us is the biggest reason we don’t do things today that will make the rest of our lives better.” Plan failure into your plans. It’s inevitable. “The most extraordinary leaders I’ve known are the ones who are best at healing.” Only hurt people hurt others. “It means leaders have got to forgive and leaders have got to heal. If we don’t evict the things living rent free in our heads, we will carry them with us and one day use them as weapons against those we care about most.”

The last section of the book is a workbook of sorts to help you define your own values and create your own questions based on those values. This is Day One will help to see leadership as a responsibility everyone has. It’s a choice. We can build a community of leaders one day at a time.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:37 AM
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William Donaldson on Entrepreneurial Leadership

William Donaldson


ILLIAM DONALDSON has led a full life. He was most notably a co-founder of the investment banking firm of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in 1959, served in Henry Kissinger’s State Department, was the founding dean at the Yale School of Management, served as chairman and chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange, turnaround CEO of Aetna, chairman of the SEC, and now CEO of the private investment firm Donaldson Enterprises.

Donaldson and Karl Weber extract relevant lessons for leaders in Entrepreneurial Leader. The thread that runs through his career is the entrepreneurial mindset. That mindset is “about the application of creative thinking and prudent risk-taking to build innovative, long-lasting organizations in any sector of the economy.”

There are leaders and there are entrepreneurs, but not all leaders are entrepreneurs, and not all entrepreneurs are leaders. Simply put, I believe that entrepreneurial is a mindset—a way of thinking—and leadership is a way of acting. Entrepreneurial leadership, then, describes the way such a leader behaves.

The case method he experienced at the Harvard Business School, showed him that “in many cases, the deeper you delve into a problem, the less obvious the answers are.” This realization is empowering because “since nobody really knows the one perfect solution to the kinds of real-life challenges organizations face, it’s important to have the courage to ask questions, to propose answers, to challenge assumptions, and to experiment—all of which are key elements of the entrepreneurial drive.”

As founding dean and professor at the Yale school of management, he taught a course on entrepreneurial leadership. He focused on the personal characteristics of the leader. “Of course, an entrepreneurial leader needs to know about subjects like financial management, competitive strategy, market analysis, and the like. But I think those topics are distinctly secondary. More important are the human qualities that the entrepreneurial leader brings to the job—the ability to see the world through fresh eyes; the ability to pay attention to both the big picture and the small details that define a particular situation; a high degree of personal energy, optimism, and a sense of fun; the readiness to shape and define the system in which he or she operates rather than being controlled by a system someone else has created; and, most important, a strong sense of integrity.”

By integrity, he means that they transcend themselves. They look beyond their ego. They remain true to the vision and commit to the value of individuals.

He notes that an entrepreneur is not a gambler. “The smart entrepreneur uses careful planning, intelligent strategy, and lots of hard work to minimize the risk as much as possible.”

Effective leaders must be entrepreneurial—which means getting things done, regardless of the obstacles.

Entrepreneurial leaders must have the ability to learn fast in environments of ambiguity and change, while providing clarity and coherence for those around them.

Entrepreneurial leaders have the ability to see the world a bit differently from everyone else. They have the drive to innovate—the willingness to continually experiment, to test new ways of organizing and deploying resources, to abandon outmoded approaches when circumstances change; in short, to “make all things new.”

I found this comment especially useful as it speaks to the mission here at LeadershipNow:

In the business arena, entrepreneurial leaders must think and behave as if they own the company—whether they do or not. Entrepreneurial leaders must define systems rather than be defined by them; they must adopt an ownership mentality. They understand that they must take ownership of their choices, including the smaller, day-to-day decisions they make. They must take full responsibility for them rather than attributing them to “the system” or “circumstances.” Entrepreneurial leaders also think continually about the big picture—the broader goal that everyone in the organization is supposed to be working toward—and strive to be guided not by short-term gain or personal profit but by long-term objectives that help everyone. Furthermore, entrepreneurial leaders find ways to encourage everyone in the organization to think and behave in this way, and create circumstances that help them do this.

The behind-the-scenes look at the roles he has taken on throughout his life—especially the rationale behind and the building of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette—is instructive. The range of his life and career demonstrate the broad relevance of the principles he describes in this book and makes for a fascinating read.

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That Will Never Work Learning to Lead Williams

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Who Will Lead Us Tomorrow?

Lead Us Tomorrow


E ARE RAISING TODAY, the men and women who will lead us tomorrow. It is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. It should be done with forethought and with a consideration of the kind of world we hope they and we will live in when it’s their turn to lead.

Developing leaders places a huge responsibility on us today that goes beyond telling those future leaders what we think. To develop leaders, we must not only envision the leaders we want tomorrow, but we must behave in the manner of the leaders we want to see.

We may not like the leadership or lack of it that we see today, but if our reaction to anything we don’t like is anger, outrage, hatred, and vicious rhetoric, we are endorsing those values by way of example. Unwittingly, we perpetuate hatred, outrage, and vulgarity in the leaders of tomorrow. They learn to lead by watching us “lead.”

Martin Luther King succeeded because he calmly but passionately painted a picture of a world that appealed to our morality. He shared a positive idea to replace a negative idea without attacking other people. His example had moral weight. He was silenced by hatred. Hatred and anger is an idea without reason—it’s unreasonable—a rudderless opinion with no foundation.

We must be the leaders we want to see developed in the generations that follow us. If you want leaders who listen, who are understanding, compassionate, civil, and respectful, then we must display those values in our dealings with what we see happening around us. If not, we are the problem. If we want others to respect us and listen to us, we must respectfully listen to them. We talk when we should be listening.

If we believe people should be respectful of each other, then we must be those people. Returning in kind is tempting and sometimes funny, but it does nothing but add to the discord we see around us. Real leaders resist the temptation and rise above it. Our response should be one that is conscious and empathetic of the other person's frustration and often misplaced angst. To do anything else only adds to the destructive division we see today.

Real leaders connect, they don’t divide. They focus on similarities, not differences. We often think that if I don’t yell, I won’t be heard, but we aren’t heard because we are yelling. The most strident voice is not the leader. Harsh words do not connect with others. “Blood in the streets” is not a mature response to disagreement.

When we become the leaders we should be, those that follow will learn to lead the way they should. As we learn and grow, those around us will learn and grow. We are modeling now the kind of leadership we will have in the future.

American poet Edwin Markham’s poem captures the need for us to grow into the leaders we want others to be:

We are all blind until we see
—That in the human plan
Nothing is worth the making if
—It does not make the man.

Why build these cities glorious
—If man unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the work, unless
—The builder also grows.

If we want our children to be intentional about their lives, we must too be intentional about ours with the end in mind—with the consequences of our personal behavior in mind. Meaningful lives are built; they don’t just happen. If we want them to be adults, we must act like adults. We are shaping the character of future leaders today. We must resolve to be the leaders we wish to see.

What will our future leaders be like? Who will lead us tomorrow? What legacy are we leaving for our children? We only need to look at ourselves.

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Michael Lombardi’s Lessons in Leadership

Michael Lombardi


ICHAEL LOMBARDI has been an American football executive for decades. He has worked on the staffs of NFL legends Al Davis, Bill Walsh, and Bill Belichick and with Nick Saban while with the Cleveland Browns. He is also a media analyst writing for Bill Simmon’s The Ringer, where he also hosts his top-ten sports podcast, GM Street.

In Gridiron Genius, you will certainly get the inside scoop on the game of football, but it’s much more than that. As a three-time Super Bowl champion, Michael Lombardi provides lessons in organizational culture, team building, strategy, and character. His philosophies on how to build championship teams were foundational for the teams built by both Walsh and Belichick.

Organizations of all types will benefit from the insights found here. “Football is ultimately a business, and as in any successful business the most important ingredients are a sound culture, a realistic plan, strong leadership, and a talented workforce.” So let’s look at some of the leadership lessons to be found here.

The main lesson that comes through his experience with great coaches and owners is that culture comes first. “If you haven’t created an underlying ecosystem of excellence, short-term success is all it will ever be.”

On Bill Walsh building the San Francisco 49ers in 1979: “From the talent on and off the field, to the quality of the workplace, to the practice fields. No detail was too small for Walsh to consider because, to his assembly line way of thinking, only the sum of them all could produce the organization he wanted. As he was fond of saying, if he managed to perfect the culture, the wins would take care of themselves.”

He writes: “Character assessment is by far the hardest challenge for team builders. More than any other factor, inaccurate character assessment is why draft boards are to this day littered with so many mistakes. For starters, let’s be honest, there’s a sliding scale of morality in the NFL (as in every industry), in which the more talented a player is, the more he can get away with.”

“Each player retains information differently, and it’s the coach’s job to determine the best way to instruct him.”

What Makes a Great Quarterback?

A winning way. (Winning is a habit.) A thick skin. (The measure of who we are is how we react to something that does not go our way.) Work ethic. (Your best player has to set a tone for intolerance for anything that gets in the way of winning.) Football smarts. (A quick mind come with preparation. You prepare so well that you don’t have to think; you just react.) Innate ability. (Born with it quality: Walsh couldn’t define it, but he knew it when he saw it.) Carriage. (Quarterbacks have to inspire. They can always look as if they have it all under control and that somehow they will figure out how to lead the team to victory. No one wants to follow a sulker.) Leadership. (Quarterbacks who fail to gain the respect of teammates leave a team rudderless.)

Building a team: “A big part of Walsh’s genius was his uncanny ability to spot a quarterback in a crowd. Even from a distance and after only a few throws, he could sense immediately if a quarterback could run his offense. Guys like Walsh and Belichick are unusual this way: They can visualize how skill sets fit in their schemes in a way that both maximizes those abilities and fuels the system.”

From Bill Belichick:

“Although practice doesn’t make perfect, it gets you closer to perfection each time you do it.”

“We aren’t collecting talent; we are building a team.”

Mental Toughness: Doing what is best for the team when it might not be the best for you. If players can fight past exhaustion, if they can focus when they’re completely drained, well, that’s mental toughness.

On Bill Walsh:

“His meticulousness was evident everywhere.”

“Walsh opted for less experienced men who shared his curiosity and displayed a willingness to learn his system and methods.”

What Makes a Great Coach?

Command of the Room. Followers need something to commit to. A leader has to have a plan. On Nick Saban at Cleveland: He had a strong plan and an effective way of communicating that plan, and his ability to be self-critical earned the players’ trust in a way that rivaled their feelings for Belichick.

Command of the Message. What good is the plan if you can’t talk about the plan? Players can’t accomplish anything unless they can visualize the path. Delivery isn’t as important as meaning.

Command of Self. Personal accountability is the ultimate sign of strength. Sophocles sums it up best: “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” Ego is the leading cause of unemployment in the coaching world.

Command of Opportunity. Becoming an NFL head coach is a process. You learn on the fly. In the beginning, it is likely you’ll be bad at it. You just have to keep working at it until you get good and pray that you don’t end up a one-hit wonder.

Command of the Process. A leader must be fair and consistent. When rule don’t apply to everyone, the ensuing chaos collapses whatever foundation a leader has tried so hard to build.

In a particularly good section of the book, Combating Complacency he talks about how Belichick and Walsh fight complacency. This was interesting: “Whether the Patriots have just won the Super Bowl or not, the first thing Belichick does is wipe the slate clean. One of his favorite sayings is, ‘To live in the past is to die in the present.’ It’s why you see no Super Bowl trophies as you walk through the players’ entrance and why all the photos from the previous season are removed as soon as the season is over. That clean slate demands a trip back to basic principles and fundamentals after a detailed examination of the current process.” He adds, “What impressed me the most about Belichick and Walsh in their self-awareness. With the same kind of success in the NFL many lesser men have become close-minded, authoritarian, and lazy.”

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Of Related Interest:
  Leadership is Destroying Culture by Michael Lombardi at TEDx
  4th and Goal Every Day

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:16 AM
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Humble Leadership

Humble Leadership


T NEVER HURTS TO BE REMINDED of the need for humility. We tend to fall back on transactional relationships and rule-based leadership. Edgar Schein and Peter Schein call this Level 1 based leadership.

What they advocate in Humble Leadership is moving to and developing an organizational culture based on Level 2 relationships. That is relationships that are intentionally personal, cooperative, and trusting.

Level 2 relationships come naturally with friends and family, but no so much at work. Level 2 relationships come about by seeing others as a whole person and not just as someone filling a role at the moment. It’s being able to say in actions and words, “I want to get to know you better so that we can trust each other in getting our jobs done better.”

In my own work, it’s not uncommon to see people who would tell you that relationships are important to them, shift into Level 1 transactional relationships with the people they are working with. Transactional relationships can somehow make us feel like we are serious and getting down to business by avoiding all of the relationship stuff. Not to mention, it’s just easier to avoid the hard work of developing trust and openness with another person or team. But it comes at a cost. As they describe it, Humble Leadership is about “building relationships that get the job done and that avoid the indifference, manipulation, or, worse, lying and concealing that so often arise in work relationships.”

Much of our work life occurs at Level 1 because the services, stores, hospitals, and businesses we deal with are organized bureaucratically to deal with us at that level. This is typically the source of our dissatisfaction with bureaucracies. We don’t like being treated so impersonally, especially at work.

Evolving the managerial culture from Level 1 to Level 2 is the defining task for Humble Leadership.” The authors suggest that to move from Level 1 to Level 2 relationships, we need to personize our relationships at work. By that, they mean getting to know them as a whole person by minimizing subordination so that we “emphasize collaboration, joint responsibility, and your own willingness to help them succeed.” One of the best ways to get that started is by learning together “because in that context the boss and the employee can give each other direct feedback and suggestions on how he work could be done better.”

In a Level 2 workgroup Humble Leadership emerges by enabling whoever has pertinent information or expertise to speak up and improve whatever the group is seeking to accomplish.

The process of creating and maintaining Level 2 relationships requires a learning mindset, cooperative attitudes, and skills in interpersonal and group dynamics.

The Heroic leader will no longer be the leader with all of the answers, going it alone to forge a new future. The leader of the future will need to be humble, cooperative, and open. Leadership will be expressed as “we together.”

At the end of the book, there are exercises to help you shift from Level 1 relationships to Level 2 relationships.

Humble Leadership Chart

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Theory U Yes to the Mess

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The Dichotomy of Leadership



O MUCH OF LEADERSHIP is managing tensions. Leaders must know when to adapt. This is where self-awareness plays a big part. In a word, they need balance. And that’s what The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is all about.

After the publication of their first book, Extreme Ownership, many people latched on to the aggressive implications of the word “extreme” and missed the more nuanced balance that a leader must have. “Leaders must find the equilibrium between opposing forces that pull in opposite directions.” The Dichotomy of Leadership is meant to help leaders find that equilibrium.

Extreme is almost never the answer. Anything can be taken too far. A leader must be able to where to be on any given continuum in any given situation. Steadiness comes to mind. Or as the Romans termed it: gravitas. Knowing what the tensions or the dichotomies are is the first step avoiding the trap of extremes. Willink and Babin offer twelve. We’ll review eight of them here.


The bottom line that leaders build on is the first dichotomy: To care about your people more than anything—but at the same time, lead them. “And as a leader, you might have to make decisions that hurt individuals on your team. But you also have to make decisions that will allow you to continue the mission for the greater good of everyone on the team.” This concept frequently gets lost on some discussing leadership. It’s easy to get this wrong. Getting it right is caring. It’s the job of leading.

Own it All, but Empower Others

The next tension is between micromanagement and hands-off leadership styles. You have to have to take ownership, but at the same time, give ownership. “With Extreme Ownership you are responsible for everything in your world. But you can’t make every decision. You have to empower your team to lead, to take ownership. So you have to give them ownership.” Leaders set the destination but ownership comes when people can help set the course.

Resolute, but Not Overbearing

When and where do you hold the line? “There is a time to stand firm and enforce the rules and there is a time to give ground and allow the rules to bend. They must set high standards, but they cannot be domineering or inflexible on matters of little strategic importance.” It’s about your leadership capital. “Leadership capital is the recognition that there is a finite amount of power that any leader possesses. It can be expended foolishly, by leaders who harp on matters that are trivial and strategically unimportant. Prioritizing those areas where standards cannot be compromised and holding the line there while allowing for some slack in other, less critical areas is a wise use of leadership capital.” It’s an act of strength for a leader—the opposite of insecurity.

When to Mentor, When to Fire

Knowing when to work with someone and when to let them go isn’t easy. “Most underperformers don’t need to be fired, they need to be led.” The balance when leaders remember that “Instead of focusing on one individual, there is a team—and that the performance of the team trumps the performance of a single individual. Instead of continuing to invest in one subpar performer, once a concerted effort has been made to coach and train that individual to no avail, the leader must remove the individual.”

Disciplined, Not Rigid

Rules can be imposed with too much rigidity that it stifles the team’s ability to think and adapt. Leading isn’t about following the exact procedure, but being able to think and do what makes the most sense so that you can support and lead your team. “Disciplined standard operating procedures, repeatable processes, and consistent methodologies are helpful in any organization. The more discipline a team exercises, the more freedom that team will have to maneuver by implementing small adjustments to existing plans.”

A Leader and a Follower

Following is a part of leading well. Babin recalls, “Leading didn’t mean pushing my agenda or proving I had all the answers. It was about collaborating with the rest of the team and determining how we could most effectively accomplish our mission. There were many times in my Navy career when, in an effort to prove my leadership, I failed to follow. And rather than strengthen me as a leader in the eyes of the team, it undermined my leadership.” Good leadership not only includes encouraging junior members of the team to step up and contribute but to support the boss even when you disagree with the decision and “execute the plan as if it were your own.”

Plan, but Don’t Overplan

Trying to plan for every contingency can create more problems than it solves. Plan you must, but “you cannot plan for every contingency. If you try to create a solution for every single potential problem that might arise, you overwhelm your team, you overwhelm the planning process, you overcomplicate decisions for the leader. Therefore, it is imperative that leaders focus on only the most likely contingencies that might arise for each phase of an operation. Choose at most the three or four most probable contingencies for each phase, along with the worst case scenario.”

Humble, Not Passive

Humility is the leader’s most important quality. Be humble or get humbled. “An important part of being a leader is to be humble enough to see beyond his or her own needs.” And while humility means that you need to recognize that you are part of a larger whole and don’t have all of the answers, “being humble doesn’t mean being passive. It doesn’t mean to not push back when it truly matters. Humility has to be balanced by knowing when to make a stand.” That is, “willing to push back, voice their concerns, stand up to the good of the team and provide feedback.” Humility means knowing when to lead and when to follow. “Pushing back against an order or task from the boss should be the rarest of exceptions and definitely not the rule. Staying humble is the key to developing trust with the chain of command.”

When SEAL leaders had to be fired from “leadership positions in a platoon or task unit, it was almost never because they were tactically unsound, physically unfit, or incompetent. It was most often because they were not humble: they couldn’t check their ego, they refused to accept constructive criticism or take ownership of their mistakes.”

Other dichotomies they cover include: Train Hard, but Train Smart; Aggressive, Not Reckless, Hold People Accountable, but Don’t Hold Their Hands; and Focused, but Detached.

When you find that you are not managing well one of these tensions, the tendency can be to overcompensate. “When a leader moves to rebalance, however, caution must be exercised not to overcorrect. This is a common error: when leaders sense they have gone too far in one direction, they can react by going too far in the other direction. This is ineffective and can make the situation worse. So instead, make measured, calculated adjustments, monitor the results, and then continue to make small, iterative corrections until balance is achieved.”

Balance is never achieved once and done. You will need to move back and forth along these continuums to achieve the results you need because circumstances are always changing. “The leader must continue to monitor the situation, readjust as changes happen, and restore balance.”

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20 Habits to Build Your Leadership On Extreme Ownership

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What Is the Role of Leaders in Emerging Technology?

Emerging Technology

N JUNE 9th last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 2017 commencement address. He zeroed in on the distinction between technology and what it means to be human. His comments also point to the kinds of things—human things like empathy, communication, imagination, and relationships—we need to be developing to live and lead in the emerging artificial intelligence landscape.
Technology is capable of doing great things. But it doesn’t want to do great things. It doesn’t want anything. That part takes all of us. It takes our values and our commitment to our families and our neighbors and our communities, our love of beauty and belief that all of our faiths are interconnected, our decency, our kindness.

I’m not worried about artificial intelligence giving computers the ability to think like humans. I’m more concerned about people thinking like computers without values or compassion, without concern for consequences. Because if science is a search in the darkness, then the humanities are a candle that shows us where we’ve been and the danger that lies ahead.

For a leader to be that candle they need to be able to create context by communicating across disciplines. They need to be able to share ideas to take advantage of all of the information that is available and put it to a creative solution. In short, leaders will need to define focus and create meaning. An emphasis on communication will be essential for building a stable narrative and a practical relationship with technology throughout an organization or team.

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The Mathematical Corporation Will AI Take Your Job

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The Journey to Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership

T'S NOT ABOUT YOU. That’s where servant leadership begins. Success is based on your influence in the marketplace and those you help. Or rather, it is significance over success. This is a very different mindset from a power-leadership model. And it takes time because we are predisposed to lead from a power mindset.

When Art Barter bought Datron World Communications in 2004, he was determined to create a servant leadership culture in his organization. In doing so the company went from $10 million in annual sales to $200 million today. He explains, “by following the principles of servant leadership, we were able as a committed and engaged team to create a growth mindset and far exceed our normal production with basically what we already had.”

In The Art of Servant Leadership II, Barter shares the journey from power-based leadership to servant leadership. Inside you will find the ups and downs, the trials and triumphs, and the rewards of making the journey. What worked and what didn’t.

Making a change from a power-based leadership style to a servant leadership style is not easy and must begin at the top. At the beginning, there are trust issues. And quite frankly, it is a difficult approach to wrap your mind around. It’s unnatural and some otherwise great people will never make the transition. It’s an ongoing process—a cycle of education, understanding, applying, and reflecting.

Educate to Own
Leaders must educate to the point of ownership. It has to be ongoing and consistent. Barter began by preaching more or less but soon learned that if they were going to own it, they and to be part of the educational process. Based on the principles of servant leadership, he asked his team to define what servant leadership looked like to them and then said let’s do that. “Let them decide up front what that will look like; it allows them to start their transformation because they own that definition.” Barter moved from educate-to-train to educate-to-own. It is important too, says Barter, that the leader’s voice is in the process so that everyone is speaking the same thing and that you meet people where they are.

Understand and Empower
When things get tough it’s easy for a leader to fall back on power. And when you do it takes humility to face the real issue. Barter said that he had to look at himself at times and ask, “’What did I do to generate that response?’ It took me a while to get to the point where I started looking inside first.” He adds, “They can’t put me on a pedestal and expect me to be perfect, because I’m going through a continual transformation right along with them.” As to empowering others, “there are times when the best thing you can do to help people transform is to stop teaching them and just encourage them, giving them space to work on their own transformations.” Not just listening but listening to understand, empowers people.

You can’t put an organization on hold to make the transformation to a servant leadership culture. You must be profitable and self-sustaining. But servant leadership stresses the means more than the results. It is a culture that makes it safe for failure. Encouraging others and one-on-one mentoring helps to send that message. Here are two key thoughts that caught my attention in this section:
Someone on your team isn’t performing well. Maybe this person is dealing with some personal issues, or perhaps is struggling with what he or she is being asked to do. What would happen if two other people on the team took that person aside and helped him or her get through those challenges and stayed with the team member until the challenges were resolved? What would that look like in today’s workplace? In most workplaces, a person who starts falling falls alone because nobody wants to be part of it.

That’s the basic difference between the power model and the service model. The power model says, “If I do something, I want something in return.” But the servant leader says, “We’re here to help you. We’re willing to give you what you need. You can reward us if you feel like we served you appropriately.” It’s an investment, and most of the time we’ll see something out of it because people see that we conduct business differently.

Self-reflection and team reflection are necessary in a servant leadership culture. At Datron the create what they call a “fascination-for-the-truth” environment. It begins by never killing the messenger. They also host monthly get-togethers and quarterly off-sites. They invest money into developing the team by sending people to conferences, bringing in outside speakers, and encouraging reading.

Confrontations at Datron are meant to restore relationships and not to convince the other person that you’re right and they’re wrong. The real test of servant leadership is if those you are serving are growing.

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Servant Leadership in ActionFrances Hesselbein

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:45 PM
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Co-Active Leadership

Co-Active Leadership

T'S EASY TO THINK that you need a title to be a leader. So much of what we talk about when we talk about leadership is in the context of a title. It’s also easy to think that there’s only one way to lead.

In Co-Active Leadership, Karen and Henry Kimsey-House define leadership as “those who are responsible for their world.” So much of leadership is about initiative—taking responsibility. In this sense, anyone can choose to lead. “Leadership development, then, becomes about growing the size of the world for which one is able to be responsible.” Naturally, this would mean not only becoming “first-class noticers” but increasing one’s competence.

A multidimensional view of leadership allows for anyone to lead. The authors have created the Co-Active Leadership model that is multidimensional. “Everyone, at different times, plays all five roles, shifting from dimension to dimension as the circumstances and the needs of the moment require.”

The five dimensions are: Co-Active Leadership

Co-Active Leader Within
This is where all leadership begins—from within. It begins with taking responsibility for who you are, knowing your values, and then leading in alignment with those values. I agree with the authors that what we need to lead is within us, but leading with a “take me as I am” approach can lead to disaster. Self-awareness is about seeing who I am in relation to those I impact and asking ourselves if this is the person I want to be. Opening our heart is not enough. The bigger question is what is motivating the heart. From “Within” we move into the other dimensions as appropriate.

Co-Active Leader in Front
Leading in front is not about being in charge. A Co-Active Leader in Front fosters a “connection with the people who are following them and stand firmly for a clear direction and purpose.” They understand too that it is not about them, it’s also about creating the space for others to step up and share their knowledge and creativity. It’s about providing guidance.

Co-Active Leader Behind
This is about service. Co-Active Leaders Behind “focus on providing whatever is needed and, through openhearted and enthusiastic participation, advance the action in a way that holds everyone together.” They are most concerned about the whole. It’s about encouraging others.

Co-Active Leader Beside
Two can be better than one. Co-Active Leaders Beside “take responsibility for their world by creating their partnership around a shared vision and intention and supporting each other’s strength to generate a powerful synergy in which the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.” It’s about partnering with team members.

Co-Active Leader in the Field
The field referred to here is “the energetic field that surrounds all of life and offering us information all the time.” So Co-Active Leaders in the Field is “about expanding our attention beyond individual people to connect with the energetic field that surrounds life.” It’s about drawing on insights from beyond the rational mind. It about sensing and connectedness.

Seeing leadership as more than top-down command, frees anyone to lead. Seeing leadership in the multi-dimensional way the authors present here, enriches a leaders responses and approaches to any given situation.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:45 AM
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The Excellence Dividend

The Excellence DIvidend


OM PETERS has produced another thought-provoking book. The Excellence Dividend is 100% Peters. He is a fanatical lifelong learner and this book represents a summary of what he has learned over the last few decades. He considers it a sequel to In Search of Excellence. You might not agree with everything he writes, but it will make you think.

We are faced with a tech tsunami that threatens our work. Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of Cornell Tech, said, “The industrial revolution was about augmenting and replacing physical labor, and the digital revolution has been about augmenting and replacing mental labor.” Machine learning and Artificial intelligence will change the way we work.

Peters says that the best defense against this tech tsunami is excellence. Excellence is an offensive strategy. It's proactive. We need to focus “on the human attributes that will, effectively deployed, likely remain beyond the realm of artificial intelligence.” He believes we need to go on the offensive creating excellence in everything we do.

Excellence is not a list of dos and don’ts. It’s really a quality of heart. It’s a “state of mind.” It’s expressed in everything we do—the next thing we do. It’s our next e-mail; our next conversation. “Excellence is a moment-to-moment way of life. Or it is nothing at all. There’s no tomorrow in excellence; there is only right now.” “Excellence is the next five minutes.” Little touches are the most important differentiators. Little is greater than big.

Execution, then is everything. Execution is the leader's job. “Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics,” said General Omar Bradley. “Get moving now. Get the job done. On this score, nothing has changed in 50 years, including the fact that all too often the strategy is inspiring, but the execution is largely AWOL.”

People first. Hard is soft. Soft is hard. “Your customers will never be happier than your employees.” Training is your most important investment. “Simply put,” says Peters, “helping your employees achieve a worthwhile future turns out to be the most profitable way to run a company. Period.”

When it comes to innovation WTTMSW: Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins and it’s corollary, WTTMSASTMSUTFW: Whoever Tries the Most Stuff And Screws The Most Stuff Up The Fastest Wins. It’s a numbers game. “If you know where you’re heading, you’re not innovating. If things work out as planned, you weren’t chasing anything interesting.”

We must become fully immersed to innovate. “To deal effectively and creatively with a given context, we must push ourselves hard, very hard, systematically, one day at a time, one hour at a time, to become fully engaged with novelty. Novel settings. Novel people. Novel everything.”

When it comes to leaders, “the best of the best are extraordinary listeners.” Most of us think we are good listeners, but we aren’t. “Listening is strategy.” It’s not passive. It’s an action word. “Fierce listening. Aggressive listening.

Peters offers a solid explanation of 26 Tactics to spur leadership excellence. Of course it would not be complete without MBWA. Managing By Wandering Around. As John le Carré said, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” The list includes, you are your calendar, it’s always showtime, the rule of zero (every day is a start-up), acknowledgment, thank you, civility, and apologize.

There is much, much, much more in The Excellence Dividend. As you might expect from a Tom Peters book (or anything by him), there is a lot to digest and much to learn from. He gives specific behaviors that you can put into practice now. But I think Peters would say, “Don’t think too long. Execute on excellence NOW and learn by doing.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:49 PM
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Key Tips for Bridging the Generational Divide in the Workplace

Generational Divide


ILLENNIALS NOW MAKE UP the largest percentage of the workforce. As workers, they’re characterized as brazen, fearless and unwilling to take “no” for an answer. Their assuredness and technological expertise have radically changed office dynamics. Top-down, command-and-control leadership styles are outdated and ineffective with this modern-day workforce.

The clash of perspectives, with the Boomer generation craving the comfort of a hierarchical organization and Millennials demanding inclusion and collaboration, impacts the bottom line. Millennials will abandon any job if the culture their manager has created is unworkable for them. If it means more than six jobs in ten years, so be it. But such turnover is costly. Research shows the average cost of employee turnover is about 20 percent of the employee’s annual salary. Other costs of not adapting leadership styles for your younger employees are harder to quantify, including lost knowledge, relationships, opportunities, and more.

Transforming from an entrenched and unworkable generational disconnect into a dynamic organization able to face 21st century challenges collaboratively requires key actions, including:

1. Reassess attitudes toward junior employees.

Boomers and Millennials have distinct differences in how they act and how they want to be regarded in the workplace. These differences are potentially lethal to your business, particularly when leaders aren’t prepared to make the most of the talent and innovation the young employees bring. Strategies that move managers, supervisors and executives away from being simply directors to become “people developers”—coaches, motivators and listeners—will serve in providing the collaborative culture Millennials crave. And management will realize that all generations in the organization respond better to relational leadership opposed to directives and demands.

2. Realign workplace expectations.

Boomers remain in the mindset that junior employees have to pay their dues and show respect, just as they had to do. But Millennials expect their supervisors to understand the amazing life experiences and skills they bring. They value autonomy, flexibility and opportunity to express their opinion. Leaders are challenged to clearly communicate expectations and standards and allow the young employees to take ownership of their work. This means treating them as owners, not renters. Treating them like renters allows them to do the minimum amount of work and expect others to fix any problems. Owners, on the other hand, have skin in the game and own their part of the overall results.

3. Capitalize on new skills.

Millennials bring a specific set of game-changing technological skills to the workplace, yet Boomers often have no idea what these tools are, what they do or how they’re changing the business landscape. In the multi-generational workplace, a useful approach for capitalizing on Millennials’ skills is to employ “reverse mentoring.” Instead of the usual older-to-younger employee mentoring, the junior employee mentors the senior employee. Reverse mentoring helps close the technological knowledge gap, empowers high-potential employees and drives understanding and empathy between generations.

Companies who can effectively bridge the generation gap through leadership strategies that harness the potential of Millennials will create a competitive advantage. After all, the young employees are yearning for personal value in their work and the opportunity to contribute to something that matters. The alternative is that the manager—and the organization—become irrelevant.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Kelly Riggs and Robby Riggs. Kelly Riggs is an author, speaker and business performance coach for executives and companies throughout the U.S. and Canada. Kelly is a former sales executive and two-time national Salesperson of the Year with well over two decades of executive management and training experience. Robby Riggs is a corporate consultant specializing in strategic transformation initiatives and driving successful change in companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100s. Their new book, Counter Mentor Leadership: How to Unlock the Potential of the 4-Generation Workplace, offers practical, actionable advice that improves workplace culture and enables organizations to bridge the generational divide. Learn more at CounterMentors.com

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8 Shifts Young Leaders Need to Make Tim Elmore Generation iY

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:30 PM
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The Power of Vulnerability



ANG UP THE CAPE. Effectiveness in leadership is not about having all of the answers but not knowing and accessing the power of those you lead.

In The Power of Vulnerability, Barry Kaplan and Jeffrey Manchester explain that the secret to unleashing the power of leaders, teams, and organizations, is through vulnerability. The more that leaders open their hearts, reveal their fears and show their authentic selves, the deeper the connections among team members will be, and the more the team will achieve.

Part of what makes it work is that when we get behind the façades that we habitually put up, we begin to understand others better—their motivations, values, and beliefs. As we better understand what is going on inside of us, we will better understand what is going on inside of others and take their comments and behaviors less personally. We will begin to understand their points of view more completely. It generates respect and a willingness to share points of view that can strengthen the group as a whole.

You don’t begin this journey to authenticity and vulnerability by giving away the store. There are real and imagined risks. Some environments carry more risk than others. “Imagine that there is a continuum of risk, on one end of the spectrum is where you shut down completely, and at the other end, you are wide open. You stand somewhere along that continuum as you subjectivity determine what’s what. That’s your spot of safety, where your internal risk manager allows you to play.” To take the first step, “you’ll need to get permission from your internal risk manager to take a small step, say to stretch just 10 percent, in showing vulnerability.”

If you don’t believe it’s safe enough for you to share your opinions, you are not going to. Yet because you have clarity about what you want, you can now imagine the relational and team dynamics to ensure that you can express yourself more fully. Because you have clarity about your need to create safety, it’s already safer.

As you also make it safe for others to show their vulnerabilities, it will become safer for you. Creating a safe space for others involves:

1. Getting Present:

Set aside distractions. While you may feel safe in being disconnected, “if you’re going to be more open and vulnerable and show up in your power, then you must first shift from disconnection to the intentional practice of connection.” The authors suggest checking yourself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Where are you right now through these four energy centers?

2. Understanding and Committing to Guidelines and a Protocol for How We Are Going to Connect:

For example, everyone commits to respect confidentiality, being present in the moment, staying when times get tough, speaking the truth, asking for what you want, owning your judgments and feelings, actively listening, and asking permission before offering feedback or advice.

3. Using the “Clearing and Resolution Model:”

Clear the elephants in the room so that “everyone can be aligned with themselves and the people they work with.” There is a process of clearing that asks five questions; What are the facts? What are your perspectives? What are you feeling? What was your role in attracting the issue to you? What do you want specifically?

4. Completing Exercises to Take Steps Toward Authenticity:

Break the ice with an exercise like everyone sharing a bit of themselves to get you to move out of your head to opening up emotionally to become more present. Create shared experiences. “The weekly or monthly meetings don’t count because the primary focus in those sessions is on the business of the company. Additional investment on a quarterly, semi-annual, and, at a minimum, annual offsite is required to help continue the momentum of trust and connection that has been established.”

5. Anchoring and Integrating the Process:

Create a rhythm by creating rituals that serve to maintain the connection you’ve established. The heart of authenticity is connection. It has to be a conscious choice practiced over and over.

When our souls transparently connect with other souls, something magical happens. You begin to be seen and known and accepted for who you are and what your viewpoint offers. Your diversity is embraced, as is everyone else’s. This creates a deeper sense of understanding and respect for everyone around us.

The best way to get stuff done, to be the boss, to be a real leader, is to encourage others to step into their best version of personal leadership. That means you as a boss, need to accept that you may not always be right, that you may not always know the answer, that you may not even know who does know. You’ll also need to accept that it is okay and even sensible (though risky) to move into the unknown, that it is okay to believe that the best outcome is when you can be both the boss and a leader without having to always lead. Embrace the reality that sometimes the highest form of leadership is when you lead from behind be creating the environment for others to claim their power and step in before you.

Begin the journey by practicing vulnerability in the hope that others on your team will really see you and seek a version of the journey for themselves. And hang up the cape.

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Grounded Truth About You

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:50 AM
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Moving Your Agenda

Moving Your Agenda


OVING YOUR AGENDA is not always easy. Yet, as a leader, you are remembered because you were able to move an agenda.

Samuel Bacharach writes in The Agenda Mover, that leadership is “about your capacity to take your ideas and work them through the maze of resistance, overcome challenges, and put those ideas in place. Leaders are remembered for their accomplishments, not their promises.”

To that end, Bacharach has provided a practical guide to do just that. He presents a four-step process that anyone can learn to master with practice.

To move an agenda, you need to learn to harness what others have to offer if for no other reason than you have blind spots. You need to build a coalition and develop the managerial skills required to maintain forward movement. It requires a campaign of pragmatic leadership. “Agenda movers are aware that their self-interest, emotions, cognitive capacity, and background can trip them up if they are not careful and that being smart is not a guarantor of success.”

Agenda Movers

The four major stages in any campaign are first, you must anticipate the agendas of others. Second, you must mobilize your campaign. Third, you need to negotiate buy-in. And fourth, you must sustain momentum. In this post we will focus on the first stage—Anticipate the Agenda of Others—because this is the stage that most of us miss or move too quickly over and set ourselves up for frustration or failure.

Anticipate the Agenda of Others

This means knowing where others are coming from. Putting yourself in their shoes. Empathy. Our own egos are the enemy here.

You need to know who you are dealing with—the stakeholders. Bacharach lists four: Top Dogs (organizational decision-makers), Gatekeepers (the liaisons), Gurus (senior individuals, external consultants, the board of directors), and the Players (people directly impacted by your agenda). The players are your essential ally. Never underestimate them.

All of these stakeholders have their own agendas and ways they go about accomplishing them. There are the Tinkerers versus the Overhaulers and the Planners versus Improvisers that make up the Four Agenda Archetypes. There is the Let’s-Be-Careful Traditionalist, the Cross-That-Bridge-When-We-Come-to-It Adjuster, the Push-the-Envelope Developer, and the Tear-the-Envelope Revolutionary. If you know where you are coming from and where others are coming from you can begin to see what might motivate someone to join your change effort. This framework can help you do that.

Agenda Archetypes

Distinguishing traditionalists from developers, developers from adjusters, and adjusters from revolutionaries allows you to identify where others are coming from quickly and efficiently. In making these distinctions, be careful not to assume that these agendas are immutable or that people are uniformly consistent from one situation to another.

Of course, we are a factor in the process. We have our own motivations and our preferred ways of dealing with change. It is critical that we know where we are coming from too. We may need to adjust the approach we are comfortable with in order to move our agenda.

The chart below helps you to see how your motivation relates to the motivation of others. “Allies are those who share your agenda, and it is easy for them to see where you’re coming from.” Traditionalists can anticipate that a Revolutionary will resist their approach and agenda. But here is a key insight:

Agenda movers are leaders who understand that leading isn’t about meeting jubilantly with allies or reasoning earnestly with resistors. Successful leaders understand that the real challenge is in the gray area—converting potential allies into allies and making sure the potential resistors are not transformed into full-fledged resistors. Potential allies and potential resistors disagree with either your approach or your goals. Skillful negotiation may persuade these individuals to reconsider aspects of your agenda that differ from theirs. If you are not careful, potentials can easily switch to resistors.

Stakeholders Agenda

Mobilize Your Campaign

Timing and tone make a difference. “To mobilize others you must: focus your message; justify your agenda; establish your credibility; and gauge your support.” You do not want to oversell here. Choose your words carefully to justify why your agenda should be supported. Make sure your idea is well thought through and you demonstrate the ability to see it through.

Negotiate Support

“Getting the buy-in is about shifting your focus from sharing your passion for your idea to really thinking about where the other party is coming from.” It is a process of reducing their anxiety. How will it benefit them? If they come on board, it is reasonable to assume that it can be done, will they get any of the credit, and are they protected if it fails. They want to know what changes for them. Your approach to the situation will make a big difference. You can approach it with a controlling, hardline mindset if this is a one-time thing. On the other hand, you can try a more cooperative mindset that seeks to pull-them-in. This mindset may allow you to build supporters for any future agenda you may have.

Sustain Your Campaign

This is where the rubber meets the road. After you’ve won people over, you have to get it done. “You may have sold your idea and created a coalition, but you can only sustain momentum and get results if your team can keep up its energy and focus in spite of challenges, obstacles, and setbacks.” To create traction, you need to celebrate small victories, make sure they own the idea and manage with agility. You have to be smart about how you present yourself and deal with others. You can micromanage your team, but you are better acting as a facilitator coach.

To go the distance, your team must act with a collective purpose. You can sustain the campaign mindset by reminding them why they are part of your effort, reinforcing the payoff, keeping an optimistic outlook, and maintaining your credibility. It is crucial to remind people not only about the importance of the mission but also about how important they are to the mission.

Anyone successful at moving an agenda knows that it is not a solo effort. “Failed leaders are those who assume that they are the most important player.

The Agenda Mover is a book that leaders at all levels would benefit from reading. It is common to see people trying to push their agenda without first defining what they are up against and without any understanding of the impact they themselves are having on others. Without that knowledge, we often resort to destructive behaviors to get our agenda moving. In that regard, this book is critical for anyone with an idea they want to have taken seriously.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:45 PM
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The Leadership Triangle

Andy Cunningham


RE LEADERS BORN or are they made? The underlying assumption here, of course, is that an individual is either a leader or not, whether by genetics or education. Period.

The elite of higher education would have us believe that leadership can be taught, especially if you are one of the privileged attending classes at a top tier university offering courses in leadership. But there are others who believe leaders come out of the womb with a mission to lead. Either way, we assume that leadership is dependent on personality traits and/or skills. That once a leader, always a leader.

But is this the case? Is the population to be divided simply into leaders who always lead and followers who always follow? Leadership is surely more complicated than that. Perhaps the question is not are leaders born or made, but rather, can leadership flourish in anyone when the circumstances for it are right? Does context matter?

We tend to remember leaders who seemingly made the impossible possible, but it was always in a particular context. Leaders like Martin Luther King defined by the civil rights movement, Margaret Thatcher defined by the Cold War, and Bill Gates defined by the burgeoning personal computer industry come to mind. For the most part, history doesn’t record how these leaders dealt with contexts outside their defining accomplishments. We examine their leadership and develop theories about their strategies, their skills, and their personality traits. But to understand a broader view of leadership, we must look beyond these historic figures and observe the anonymous trailblazers in our midst. A different picture of leadership emerges.

Hurricane Harvey in Texas demonstrated that “ordinary citizens” can step up to leadership when the situation is ripe for it. CNN captured a video of a local boat owner saying this: “We got eight people that done called for us already. So we’re going to go and get them eight, come on back, and try to save some more.” Crisis leadership in action.

The story of Todd Beamer, a sales rep for Oracle, still produces chills in anyone who hears it. He is the young man who called 911 during the hijacking of United Flight 93 on 9/11 and declared, “Let’s roll” as he and presumably a few others commandeered the airplane to prevent the hijackers from achieving their goal. They were willing to die for it.

Ordinary citizen leadership, however, need not be all about saving lives. Often it is about changing the status quo. Take Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, who took it upon herself to help women attain leadership roles in business, wrote a book about how to do it, Lean In, and started a foundation to promote it, Leanin.org. This was not part of her job.

I’ve had the opportunity in my life to interact and work with some of the most impactful leaders in their fields. Among them is Steve Jobs who returned to the company he co-founded after being ousted in 1985 having learned how to deal with adversity and turned it around with a vengeance. Audrey Rust gathered steam from a passionate group of homeowners in Woodside, California, who wanted to protect the natural beauty in the expanse beyond their backyards and preserved 53,000 acres in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties under her leadership of the Peninsula Open Space Trust. And Walter Isaacson, having established himself as a talented journalist and media professional in the business world, took the reins of the Aspen Institute during a period of severe decline and redefined it as a purveyor of rich and varied content for the intellectually inclined. Certainly, all of these people led others to fulfill a very particular mission and in so doing, created something out of nothing, something that made a difference in the world. But their leadership occurred in a particular context where their competence was significant, their confidence secure and their commitment established.

The truth is, leadership is all around us, and it arises within a certain context in which the leader’s ability (competence) aligns with faith of accomplishment (confidence) and forms a mission (commitment). I call this the Leadership Triangle.

So rather than ask if leaders are born or made, perhaps we should change the paradigm of leadership examination. Perhaps we have given short shrift in leadership study to the myriad people who find their competence, confidence, and commitment aligning with a particular context and jump in with both feet because there is simply no other choice but to lead.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Andy Cunningham. Andy is the founder and president of Cunningham Collective, a marketing, brand and communication strategy firm dedicated to bringing innovation to market. She is also the author of Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition, and the host of the popular podcast Marketing Over Ice.

An entrepreneur at the forefront of marketing, branding, positioning and communicating “The Next Big Thing,” Andy has played a key role in the launch of a number of new technology categories and products (including the Apple Macintosh) over the past 35 years. Today she advises startups, serves on several corporate boards, is a Henry Crown Fellow and a trustee at the Aspen Institute. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and lives in Sausalito on an old wooden boat with her husband, Rand Siegfried. For more information, please visit get2aha.com and follow Andy on Twitter

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:34 AM
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5 Leadership Literacies You Will Need in the Future

Leadership Literacies


UTURIST Bob Johansen tells us in The New Leadership Literacies, that over the next ten years the world will become explosively more connected. Anything that can be distributed will. To help prepare leaders for the future, he offers a list of five new leadership literacies. He encourages us to expand on them, to draw our own insights and create actions to improve our leadership in the decade ahead.

Looking Backward from the Future

The present is too noisy to give us much in the way of insight. While most forecasters try to find a trend in the present noise, Johansen says we need to look ten years into the future and then looking backward from the future. “Looking long is using foresight to provoke insight and action.”

Looking back from the future provides more clarity than the other way around. “The best way to lead in a disruptive world is to be very clear where you’re going, tell a great story about it, and then be very flexible about how you bring that future to life.”

Although Johansen claims that anyone can do this, there isn’t much to explain just how that is done. The suggestion is to see through the noise now to a future that others cannot see to get clarity and dilemma flipping which is to turn unsolvable problems into opportunities.

Nevertheless, he does offer some good general advice. The future rewards clarity, but punishes certainty. Having clarity and being certain are two different things. Clarity is simple. Certainty is simplistic. “Clarity is usually expressed in stories, while certainty is usually expressed in rules. Rigid rules can get leaders into a lot of trouble in the VUCA world, while stories encourage people to engage.”

We can get stuck in the present and the issues of the day. “Sometimes, focusing on the future can help people move beyond the polarities of the present.” Looking back from the future gets us out of the present-day noise.

Voluntary Fear Engagement

Gaming allows the user to engage in risky or unknown situations in a low-risk, even fun way. A good game has a good story and allows you to be in the story—interact within the story.

The most successful games are multi-player games. Gaming communities learn from each other and together.

Johansen believes that “gaming will become the most powerful learning medium in history.” The military, for example, uses simulations to train soldiers. Business needs to learn how to do the same. “Gaming, simulation, role-playing, improvisational theater, immersive travel, and similar experiences can help leaders create safe zones to practice their own leadership.”

Gaming allows for immersive learning. “The whole point of gameful engagement is to immerse yourself in a realistic but mock fearful environment and learn how to thrive, or at least push through it.” Gaming combined with gaming communities will allow users to learn in low-risk immersive experiences that allow them to prepare and practice.

Shape-Shifting Organizations

Shape-shifting organizations are those that have no center, grow from the edges, cannot be controlled, and where hierarchies come and go. “The best organizations will be characterized by partnerships of mutual benefit.” Not surprisingly, Johansen believes we are moving toward a future of distributed authority. That is to say, leadership is distributed and varied. Hierarchies are formed where they are needed and disbanded when the job is done. “Shape-shifting organizations grow from the edges, and it is at the edges where diversity and innovation thrive.”

Leadership Literacies

Being There Even When You Are Not

In shape-shifting organizations, leaders will need to have their presence felt no matter where they are. They will need to find more and varied points of contact. “Mixed-reality experiences will be able to be shared across distances. The best leaders will have vivid shared work and life experiences with the people they lead.” Additionally, “leaders will have to shift from thinking about physical proximity to attentional proximity.

Johansen believes that “the centerpiece of virtual presence will be vivid audio” over video.

Creating and Sustaining Positive Energy

“If leaders are going to thrive in a future of extreme disruption, they must not only manage their own energy, they must encourage, model, and reward positive energy in others.” Good health and fitness play a big part in that scenario. “Extreme fitness—physical, mental, and even spiritual (though not necessarily religious)—will be required for most leadership roles.”

What Leaders Need to Do

Leaders must make a disrupted world more hopeful. Being dealers in hope if key. “Globally, a large number of people will be lacking in hope and unable to achieve a sense of meaning in their lives—and they will be very connected through digital media.” That hole needs to be filled with a positive hope and shared meaning. “A world of continuous disruption will be too much for many people to process—and many people will be susceptible to simplistic and dangerous calls to action.”

Fear is created by a lack of exposure. Leaders will need to be exposed to more globally and be willing to learn from a wide variety of sources. Johansen cautions: “It’s one thing to believe you’re right and have clarity about a future direction. It’s quite another to believe everybody else is wrong. Clarity can degrade into certainty.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:51 AM
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The Potential Principle: How Good Could You Be?

Potential Principle


OU KNOW HOW GOOD you are, but do you know how good you could be?

This is a case where it’s easy to think that good is good enough and get comfortable. Most of us live below our potential. As a result, we miss out on opportunities and therefore live below our true potential and hinder our ability to contribute to others.

The Potential Principle by Mark Sanborn is about how we can become better – even better than our best selves. It’s not about perfect. It’s about better.

So you might ask, “Better at what?” Sanborn presents a program to get you on the road to better. First, you need to figure out just what you want to improve.

What Do You Want to Improve?

Your journey toward better can be organized into four areas: Performing, Learning, Reflecting, and Thinking.

Improvement happens by not only things you initiate like interactive, collaborative activities but also by responding to what you hear, observe, learn as represented by the vertical line. Improvement also takes place in both our inner (things going on inside us) and our outer (things going with others) worlds as represented by the horizontal line. It’s about the inner world of being versus the outer world of performing.

Potential Matrix


The top right quadrant is the most familiar to us. “It’s where most of us consciously spend each day doing things: the observable world of initiating, acting, and producing.” It’s what people expect of us when we show up – results. It takes deliberate practice. Performance improvement is not a straight line. There are plateaus. Also, keep in mind the FIT model: Frequency, Intensity, and Technique. How often you practice, the intensity you bring to it and the techniques you use, make all the difference.


Learning involves the acquisition of new ideas that we put into practice. If we approach life humbly, we will be enriched by what we do not know. Intentional curiosity keeps us growing. “Develop a learning agenda.” Identify what you must or need to learn and then make the time and find the resources to do it.


Reflecting is the inner world of responding. This is an underappreciated value in our instant, tech driven world. It’s about waiting and listening. “Epiphanies—that is, clarity and deeper understanding about yourself and how to improve your life—happen through introspection.” It’s easy to think that we have no time for this and focus on the outer world of doing, but, says Sanborn, “the inner world informs the outer world, and that for the majority of us, going within to understand motivations, hopes fears, and dreams offers some of the greatest leverage to improving every area of our lives.”


Think about thinking. “Thinking is about proactively contemplating the world around you. It’s the source of vision, dreams, plans, and strategies. It uses external input and creates connections and directions.” Make the time to think about what you need to learn and unlearn. Focus your thinking and write it down. “Some of the biggest payoffs from thinking will occur when you review notes of previous thinking sessions and add to or modify what you came up with.

Sanborn explains each of these areas in more detail to help you develop the right mindset. Improvement in these four areas are key to improving consistently.

To be sure, each of us is more comfortable on one or two of these areas. If you are not spending enough time in an area, that will signal an area where you could improve. “Each area complements the others. If you are headed toward better, you’ll want to use each of the four areas identified. Doing so will help you reach your destination sooner and, perhaps more important, enrich the trip.”

Four Tools for Breakthrough Improvement

These four tools will help you “prevent complacency, create improvement, and bust through barriers” on your improvement journey.

  1. Disrupt Yourself (before someone else does)
    “Unwillingness to confront assumptions, challenge your thinking, and try new things is a roadblock to improvement.” It’s proactive rather than reactive. Ask disruptive questions like: “What is the most important lesson I’ve learned this past year? What am I doing out of habit that doesn’t serve me well?
  2. (re)Focus
    “Distraction impedes getting better.”
  3. Engage Others
    “Self-responsibility is the primary step toward a successful life. But engaging others and building mutually beneficial relationships will leverage everything you do.” Solicit advice, ideas, and counsel.
  4. Expand Your Capacity
    There’s room for more. Time x Effort = Capacity. “What one or two skills, if fully developed and consistently deployed, would make the biggest difference in your personal and professional improvement?”

The ideas you will find in The Potential Principle are not all new, but they are organized in such a way as to make them actionable. Sanborn has done a great job of laying the foundation and providing a blueprint for continuous improvement. All you need to do now is to put it into practice.

It seems like common sense: Become the best, and then hit cruise control. Right? Nope. When you reach the top, it’s time to hit the accelerator because you’re just getting started.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:28 PM
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4 Things Solitude Will Do for You



E LIVE in an age of noise. Getting some time for yourself is a challenge. But if we are going to lead effectively, we need white space. We need solitude.

I know none of us have any extra time, but there is overwhelming evidence that taking a time-out to simply think is foundational to your success.

Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin explore some solid reasons why you must make the time to think in Lead Yourself First.

When we say solitude we mean a “subjective state of mind, in which the mind, isolated from input from other minds, works through a problem on its own.” There is no particular structure to it—place, time, or length—but it must focus the mind. It’s scheduled white space—a commitment you make to yourself simply because your leadership begins with who you are—not what you do.

So let’s look at four things solitude will do for you.


Clarity is about what is true. What is signal and what is noise? Solitude facilitates that distillation process. It helps you to eliminate or deliberately deemphasize all distractions. That alone will help you to make the time to think. Clarity and focus go hand-in-hand. That kind of focused attention is often best done alone.

Intuition complements analytical thought. When we get stuck, “intuition can provide clarity when analytical thinking cannot.” The challenge is accessing it. Accessing intuition requires “a deeper form of solitude: an absence of inputs not only from other minds, but also from one’s own.”

Clarity is important for decision-making but it is also critical for understanding who you are—strengths and weaknesses. It helps to connect you with your core values and understand your place from that perspective.


Solitude opens the path to creativity. Solitude isn’t always the shortest distance to the goal. Joey Reiman, CEO of the consulting firm BrightHouse, credits their success to their “longer, incubation pace.” On one project he says, “If we had moved at a faster, business pace, we never would have excavated that original brand identity and then generalized it into a new ethos.”

Dena Braeger, mother of six in El Paso, offered this insight into information overload:

People make such an effort to copy what other people do, because we have so much access to information. I’m surrounded by people on Pinterest. I’ll be dammed if I make something on Pinterest. You’ll see things like these cupcakes that look amazing. And people copy them. But on the inside their phony, because the person didn’t create it themselves. We’re getting more of everything, but less of what is authentically ourselves. If we spent more time alone, creating something that might not look as amazing but is more authentic, we’d value ourselves more.

Creativity is doing something differently than the norm. Solitude allows us to get away from the inertia of our environment and connect to new possibilities.

Emotional Balance

Emotional balance requires you to respond rather than react. General James Mattis finds a lack of reflection the single biggest problem facing leaders. “The leader who neglects to step out of the sweep of events, to contemplate from whence they come and where they might go. Finds himself merely blown from one thing to another. But the leader who steps outside events is a leader who can change them.”

Solitude allows you to reflect on what is making you emotional and provide clarity on the issue. Often what you are emotional about is more of a distraction than an issue. Again Dena Braeger, the West Point graduate and mother of six in El Paso, said, “When I’m practicing solitude regularly, I self-correct so much better. I’m more focused on what’s important, and I let things go that aren’t important.”

Instead of allowing our emotions to adversely affect our leadership, it is wise to move away and deal with them in private. Our emotions will find an outlet somewhere. And that is best alone than in decisions made through unfiltered emotions that affect those around us.

Moral Courage

We’ve all seen them: leaders who take themselves too seriously—who believe their own press release. And it’s all too easy for any of us to fall prey to self-admiration. “Honest reflation can deflate these pretentions.” Reflection can pave the way to humility.

Solitude allows you to slow down and be clear and firmly convicted of your values and beliefs. “Leaders who are well anchored in what they believe are going to be more effective,” says Doug Conant, the former CEO and president of the Campbell Soup Company. When those criticisms come along that are design to enforce conformity, it is easier to weather the storm when you know that what you are doing is the right thing to do for the right reasons. It is the power to rise above.

Reclaiming Solitude

Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says that “The biggest mistake I’ve made in my career to date is believing that solitude is a luxury. I could chart the ups and downs of my quality of life personally and professionally and the amount of time I spend in solitude.” As important as it is, it is easy to let it slip away without even realizing it. We are continuously bombarded by pressures—both personal and social—not to stop and reflect but if we lose our solitude, we will lose who we are.

You don’t have to go off to a mountaintop or sit at the seashore. It can be a closed room, the library, a park bench, and even a waiting room.

We have a responsibility to seek out periods of solitude. We owe it to ourselves and those we lead.

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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
  Does Your Leadership Have “White Space?”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:05 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership , Personal Development


The Mathematical Corporation

Mathematical Corporation

OU WILL SOON be able to give over almost half of your cognitive work to the machine. This is not to say that you will lose control, but rather, it points to the fact that the human role will become even more critical.

A mathematical corporation is one that takes advantage of machine intelligence by collaborating with it to achieve leading-edge results. It will require a shift in your thinking. “As a leader,” say Josh Sullivan and Angela Zutavern in The Mathematical Corporation, “you need to evolve your focus to excelling through imagination, creativity, reasoning, and problem structuring.”

Leading in the era of the mathematical corporation means learning to work with the machine to investigate mountains of data not by braking them down, but by keeping them together to mine insights never before imaginable. It means being able to distinguish what machines are good at doing from what people are good at doing. When people and machines are appropriately paired we can explore heretofore impossible strategies and execute incredible solutions.

Machines will not replace people but we will need to develop and capitalize on some uniquely human skills. “People will continue to be better than machines at many of the loftiest cognitive tasks, like asking questions to clarify a problem, composing experiments to test hypotheses, and drawing on truths in one discipline to elicit insights in another.”

Because of the machine’s ability to synthesize vast amounts of data, it would be wise to question your own judgments when machines offer a different conclusion from your own. Machines, for example, can recognize patterns better than we can. That said, “computers don’t know the cause of a pattern. They don’t have the human appetite to get to the bottom of the matter, and they don’t ask, ‘Just how does cause A lead to effect B?’ They learn, infer, and have high recall accuracy, but they don’t know the story of cause and effect. So, the task of taking a cause-and-effect understanding of a business system and crafting a strategy from it remains a people job.”

Getting the Questions Right

While Big Data adds complexity, it is only a problem if you don’t know how to mine it for value. The key skill for leaders is to be able to ask better questions than to offer solutions. Asking the right questions is critical. Poor questions lead to questionable insights. “That’s why as a leader, you need to remain at the tip of the process, seeing the world in a much broader and more differentiated way than others.”

Not only asking the right questions but removing our own biases from them, will bring us breakthrough insights and more nuanced answers. Another issue we will have to work through is not projecting our limitations and constraints on the machine. Although we have a mental model that we filter the world though, we must be careful not to constrain the machine—our questions—in the same way.

What About Intuition?

In the mathematical corporation, the role intuition will shift from judging reality to judging models. “No matter your feeling on intuition, its role is destined to shift to a smaller, if still critical position. As machine intelligence converts implicit understanding to exploit facts, replaces implicit assumptions with data-givens, counters biases with hard evidence, we have to admit the superiority of the cold facts encoded in 1s and 0s.” Often it will require a leap of faith on our part.

We will need to learn to ask bigger questions and questions that will lead us to better questions. The best machine collaborators will see this as a learning journey. “Conventional strategic planning practice calls for a relentless search for answers during a detailed analysis of context and a relentless analysis of the opportunity to find the right answer in one go. But when the answer is over the horizon, no amount of analysis of the landscape up front will reveal it. You need to go on a learning journey—sailing to the far shores to find the best answer.”

It requires a commitment to a cycle of questioning and learning, questioning and learning.

As digital technologies continue to develop and improve, leaders will need to become wise and discerning leaders of machines. Leaders will not only be expected to use this technology to their advantage to solve their own organizational issue but to help answers the questions that exist beyond their own walls.

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Emerging Technology Will AI Take Your Job

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:24 PM
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The Bridge to Growth

Bridge To Growth


HAT’S MORE IMPORTANT, strategy or execution? I believe both are critical. But what if something else is just as important? There is a third ingredient to business success, one that many companies undervalue: servant leadership.

In today’s business climate, the cadence between strategy and execution is compressing, making the integration of the two more important than ever. Too many workers are being left out of this equation. More and more people are disconnected from their company’s goals, even though they still report being satisfied with their jobs. A Global Workforce Survey conducted by Towers Watson revealed that a mere 21 percent of workers feel engaged and truly committed to their company’s success and goals, even though 86 percent report liking their jobs. Is this reflective of a failure of leadership, a shift in the attitudes of today’s workers, or both?

Apparently, many people are settling for a job that satisfies their basic needs, yet denies them a motivating answer to two important questions: “How does my personal work connect to my company’s goals, and how can I help us achieve them?” In these cases, leaders have unfortunately failed to fully engage workers in either the development or execution of their company’s mission, goals, and ultimately its journey toward success or failure. Too often, workers are being over-managed and under-led. I believe this “commitment gap” represents the largest source of untapped potential to create economic value in our society today.

How can leaders tap into this gap and raise the performance bar? This question matters more now than it ever has. As our world becomes more socially connected, more women progress into leadership roles, and millennials seek more meaning and purpose in their work than previous generations did, the principles of servant leadership are becoming more relevant than ever before.

Based on my experience leading high performing teams over the last 36 years, I developed a blueprint of nine proven leadership principles I've used to improve the performance of several businesses by moving workforces from satisfactorily disengaged to enthusiastically committed to winning:

1. Grow leaders and difference-makers, not just followers.

2. Build and orchestrate synergistic, high-performance teams more powerful than the sum of their parts.

3. Focus your organization on strategic priorities and simplify operations to accelerate progress.

4. Champion the people who purchase and use your products and services.

5. Cultivate a performance-based culture of innovation that unleashes the innate desire in the people you lead to solve, create, and contribute to winning.

6. Communicate relentlessly to give your workforce the context they need to sign up for and truly commit to achieving company goals.

7. See the world through the eyes of others, and your example will breed a healthier organization.

8. Be the model you want emulated. Operate transparently, deliver on your promises, and remain steadfastly focused on doing the right things.

9. Coach people to achieve more than they thought possible. They need a model of success more than they need a critic. Inspire your entire organization to step up by revealing what success looks like, catching people doing something well, and showing your gratitude publicly.

If you connect with these principles, I encourage you to check out my new book The Bridge to Growth. It's packed with useful tips and tools, and each leadership principle is articulated using real-world success models that bring the principles to life.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Jude Rake. He is a veteran CEO with a 35+ year track record of building businesses to create economic value, from well-known consumer packaged goods companies such as The Clorox Company, PepsiCo, and SC Johnson, to smaller family-owned and private equity-backed businesses. He founded JDR Growth Partners to help other leaders achieve growth.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:03 AM
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What Sets Apart the Greatest Teams of All-Time?

Captain Class


AM WALKER revisits the popular idea of leadership. In The Captain Class, Walker describes what makes an elite captain by analyzing the leadership of sixteen of the most dominate teams in history. What he found is that each team had the same type of captain—a singular leader with an unconventional skill set that drove the team to achieve sustained, historic greatness.

Ironically, it wasn’t the Roy Keane’s or the Michael Jordan’s that made it happen. “The best leaders in sports history were not mesmerizing characters. They didn’t always make for great television. That’s what we’ve come to expect, however. So that’s what we continue to get.” And so teams choose the wrong people to lead them. They promote people with the wrong characteristics. It’s typically not the player with the highest market value. What it takes to lead is not always what it seems.

What Walker discovered are the Seven Traits of Elite Captains. They explain why captains of exceptional teams are so influential. And it explains why we often look for the wrong kinds of leaders to lead us.

1. Extreme Doggedness and Focus in Competition

Elite Captains just keep coming. They overcome a group dynamic known as social loafing. It’s what happens when a single person’s contribution to a team is not noticeable or unidentifiable. We put less effort in. An Elite Captain improves everyone else’s performance by leaving nothing in reserve themselves. Their willingness to give everything—all of the time—encourages the rest of the team to raise their effort level to match.

2. Aggressive Play That Tests the Limits of the Rules

Elite Captains play the edges. Walker identifies a “hostile” variety of aggression to do harm and an “instrumental” variety that is used in pursuit of a worthwhile goal. “While the captains of Tier One often did ugly things, they did so while operating within the fuzzy confines of the rules of sports. (Although you can try to parse aggressive behavior and justify some but not all, it does matter how you win. Contrary to the examples of a couple of Walker’s Captains, winning at any cost is not a sustainable value.)

3. A Willingness to Do Thankless Jobs in the Shadows

An Elite Captain serves. This finding is worth giving a little extra thought to. It is the person willing to carry the water that makes the best captain. “In fact, superior leadership is just as likely (if not more so) to come from the team’s rear quarters than to emanate from its frontline superstar.”

Walker relates the story of the San Antonio Spur’s Tim Duncan. Duncan suppressed his own skills (and salary) in order to promote the goals and values of the team. “By lowering himself, he was able to coax the maximum performance out of the players around him.”

Walker notes: “One of the great paradoxes of management is that the people who pursue leadership positions most ardently are often the wrong people for the job. They’re motivated by the prestige the role conveys rather than a desire to promote the goals and values of the organization.”

4. A Low-Key, Practical, and Democratic Communication Style

Effective teams talk to one another and the person that fosters that culture is the captain. “They engaged with their teams constantly—listening, observing, and inserting themselves into every meaningful moment. They didn’t think of communication as a form of theater. They saw it as an unbroken flow of interactions, a never-ending parade of boxing ears, delivering hugs, and wiping noses.”

5. Motivates Others with Passionate Nonverbal Displays

Jack Lambert of the Pittsburgh Steelers, went out of his way on the field “to project extreme passion and emotion.” This is distinct from verbal communication. Great captains project their feelings to have a strong impact on the thoughts, feelings and emotions of their teammates. Communication-based on displays rather than words.

6. Strong Convictions and The Courage to Stand Apart

All of the Tier One captains stood up to management in some way in their careers. It served to bring the teammates closer together and cement their leadership. Some dissent is a good thing and captains should stand up for the team even at the risk of displeasing superiors. But they focus on task conflict and not personal conflict. “Tranquility isn’t more important than the truth—at least the kind that’s told by a captain who is known to be fiercely committed, who labors in the service of the team, and who avoids attacking people on a personal level.”

7. Ironclad Emotional Control

Elite Captains have a kill switch; they are able to mute their personal emotional tendencies. Emotion and enable and it can disable. The Elite Captains walled off “destructive emotions in order to serve the interests of the team. They developed a kill switch for negative emotions.”

What Does This Say About Leadership?

Walker says we overcomplicate things. “We’ve been so busy scanning the horizon for transformational knights in shining armor that we’ve ignored the likelier truth: there are hundreds upon thousands of potentially transformative leaders right in our midst. We just lack the ability to recognize them.”

We are often swayed by the force of a person’s personality or talent, but real leadership is not readily found on a resume. It’s found in the day-in and day-out activities that reveal who they are.

The truth is that leadership is a ceaseless burden. It’s not something people should do for the self-reflected glory, or even because they have oodles of charisma or surpassing talent. It’s something they should do because they have the humility and fortitude to set aside the credit, and their own gratification and well-being, for the team—not just in pressure-packed moments but in every minute of every day.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:00 AM
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Humility Casts a Wide Net

Humility Casts a Wide Net

HUMILITY casts a wide net and makes possible the work of leadership. Nothing facilitates community, collaboration, and innovation like humility.

In Humility is the New Smart, Ed Hess and Katherine Ludwig define humility as “a mindset about oneself that is open-minded, self-accurate, and not all about me, and that enables one to embrace the world as it is in the pursuit of human excellence.”

Their definition encompasses the mind of a leader that will be able to lead in a changing and uncertain world. Humility is inclusive. It is inclusive of others ideas, others needs, others strengths, other contributions, and the realities that exist outside of our own head. A humble leader asks more questions and is open to more answers thus deepening the pool of resources they have to draw upon. But it requires a strength of character. As senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, Pat Williams writes in Humility: The Secret Ingredient of Success:

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to listen to other points of view.

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to admit their mistakes and learn from them.

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to celebrate their achievements of others.

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to surround themselves with talented people without feeling threatened or diminished.


  • Humble people treat others as equals.

  • Humble people don’t claim to know everything.

  • Humble people are better team players.

  • Humble people are willing to set aside their egos.

Humility is the antidote to insecurity that often plagues us. A lack of humility actually drives insecurity. Humility makes your strengths productive and multiplies the strengths of others. Humility acknowledges a world beyond our own thinking and minimizes our own limitations. A good leader knows this and acts accordingly to produce the best results.

Do you have the strength to be humble?

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Footwashing for Leaders Sam Rayburn on Humility

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Robert Gates on the Essentials of Leading Change

Robert Gates

IN A TIME when change is not just inevitable, but must be encouraged and led, Robert Gates’ A Passion for Leadership is a must-read.

Gates has led and continues to lead in a wide variety of organizations and organizational cultures. His collected wisdom serves to inspire us to lead others where they don’t often want to go and improve people’s lives. In addition to serving on numerous corporate boards, he has served as a United States secretary of defense, a director of the CIA, served eight presidents, served as president of Texas A&M University, and is currently the chancellor of the College of William and Mary and president of the Boy Scouts of America.

The one feature of the institutions with strong cultures he has led has been a strong sense of family. He describes it as a “commitment to taking care of one another at all times but especially in adversity or times of need.” All great cultures do have this sense of family.

At the same time, it is easy then to become insular and tolerate long-standing but inappropriate practices and behaviors because they are a tradition. It is important to define what traditions must be defended and those that must be changed to enable future success. “A good leader,” writes Gates, “must keep coming up with new perspectives, new ideas, new improvements. Only a committed leader can keep an organization—a bureaucracy—on its toes, continuously adapting, innovating, improving.”

Gates recognizes that we need leaders at all levels in an organization that are able to mobilize the willing and bring about productive change. More often than not those leaders are there, they just need to be liberated by the person at the top in an organizational culture of leadership. Not surprisingly, he identifies listening as the most critical thing a new leader can do. “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

CIA director Bill Casey gave him some good advice early on. “Bill advised me not to focus on what I disagreed with but to see if there were one or two kernels of information or wisdom worth seizing on—finding a little wheat amid all the chaff. Just because 95 percent of what someone says is nuts, he would say, laughing, doesn’t mean you should ignore the 5 percent that might be useful. (He was always handing me pamphlets or books to read, warning, ‘This guy is crazy, but there’s an interesting idea on page x.’)”

To be an effective leader, one must demonstrate from the start an understanding of and respect for the role and views of the career employees in an organization and be clear that the new boss intends to make them participants and partners in reforming the place. This is the best possible preparation of the bureaucratic battlefield.

And that doesn’t mean just rearranging the organizational chart. “The main target is how people do their work, not where.”

Gates offers from experience, strategies, techniques, and principles for implementing change. He includes many examples from the organizations he has served.

Leading change is hard work and can’t be done from on-high. Gates cautions that while micro-knowledge is necessary, micromanagement is not. “For a leader to get the big things right depends a great deal on knowing the little things, especially when implementing difficult and controversial change. Without micro-knowledge, you are the prisoner of your bureaucracy and your staff, and they will play you like a cheap fiddle.”

Fundamentally, leadership is always about people. I’ll leave you with a few thoughts from Gates on leading:

☙ You can be the toughest, most demanding leader on the planet and still treat people with respect and dignity.

☙ A self-confident leader doesn’t cast such a large shadow that no one else can grow.

☙ Leaders who think they don’t need frank, critical advice every day are usually doomed.

☙ To change bureaucracies effectively, a leader must first make his people proud and eager to excel.

☙ Formal education can make someone a good manager, but it cannot make a leader, because leadership is more about the heart than the head.

☙ Core to leadership is the ability to relate to people—to empathize, understand, inspire, and motivate.

☙ If you fundamentally don’t like or respect most people, or if you think you are superior to others, chances are you won’t be much of a leader.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:56 PM
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The One Ingredient You Must Demonstrate in Your Leadership

Perry Noble suggests that there is one ingredient that would make a lot of leadership issues go away. In The Most Excellent Way to Lead, he turns to the advice of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.

Paul had a lot to say about leadership and rightly so. Leadership comes to us naturally but without some guidance it’s not just easy to get it wrong, it's highly probable. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he is discussing – in chapter 12 – how people should work together and points out that we all have roles but that none is more important or better than another. Just different.

And then at the end of chapter 12 he lists some of the roles needed in the church, but then he says in chapter 13 that no matter who you think you are or how gifted you think you are, if you can’t do it in love—outgoing concern for others—then you are nothing. Your leadership doesn't matter. You aren’t doing it right.

It sounds like Paul is just saying play nicer, but he’s talking about serving others in some of the most difficult ways possible.
“The most excellent way to lead is also the most difficult. It goes against our natural tendencies and the culture we live in, and it highlights the fact that leadership is ultimately about the leader.”
Paul is taking about being patient with others when your patience has run out.

Being kind when they don’t deserve it.

Being supportive of other people’s success and helpful when they stumble.

Looking out for the best interests of other’s before yourself.

Never keeping a tally of other people’s failures and wrong behaviors.

Always seeking the truth even when gossip is more believable.

Choosing to trust others when it would be easier to be suspicious of them.

Being optimistic even when circumstances compel you to do otherwise.

And never giving up on people even when you are discouraged.

Noble does a good job explaining each of these and more both on a personal level and organizationally. “The way we look at other people is important,” writes Noble, “and when we see them through the lens of love, our capacity to lead significantly increases.” Without love, as Simon Sinek has pointed out, “people are forced to spend too much time and energy protecting themselves from each other.”

Mark Sanborn adds, “when we allow love to define who we are as we work, we become irresistible leaders with a contagious passion for what we do.”

This is how we get things done through others. This is how we develop others and allow them to flourish under our leadership. It’s how we build more leaders to carry on after we are gone.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:02 AM
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The Superboss Playbook


IMAGINE A WORLD a world where the person who you call your boss changed your life by helping you accomplish more than you ever thought possible.

In every industry there is a leader that stands out. A Superboss.

What is their secret?

In Superbosses, Sydney Finkelstein discovered that although they may differ in leadership styles, they share a playbook that leads to extraordinary success founded on making other people successful.

Superbosses can be fierce or gentle, belligerent or self-depreciating, but whatever their style, they do a much better job inspiring and teaching because they get in their trenches with protégés, leading by example and giving them personalized attention they require to move up quickly.

Here then is the outline of The Superboss Playbook – Techniques, Mind-Sets, Philosophies, and Secrets of the World’s Best Bosses:

Superbosses recruit people who “get it.”
They look for people who are drivers of change. They are unusually smart (Ralph Lauren looked for people with a kind of fashion sense), creative (people who see things differently), extremely flexible (people who can do more than one thing). “One critical way superbosses do that is by adapting the job description to fit the person, rather than make the person fit the job.”

Superbosses motivate exceptional people to do the impossible.
They inject possibility into their workforce. They give them the confidence to believe that they can make things happen. Superboss Michael Milken said, “We are all capable of performing at a far higher level than we have. Faced with a challenge, we can do it. Maybe we’re not challenging ourselves enough.” Finkelstein adds, “Superbosses credibly push others into their discomfort zones because they model high performance themselves.”

Superbosses are uncompromisingly open.
While superbosses protect the “why,” they invite people to rethink everything else about the work they do. Most bosses are not really open to new ideas. “Rather than weaving innovation into the fabric of daily work, they contain and limit it by setting up special task forces, committees, and project teams devoted to adaptation and change. They ‘carve out’ time for innovation rather than living and breathing it every minute. It is particularly difficult to find bosses who are uncompromising in what they do and open to almost constant change.”

Superbosses embrace the apprenticeship model.
They “use this informal manner of instruction not only to convey knowledge but also to exert a powerful, almost parental influence on their protégés.” Operating a masters, they forge sustained, all-encompassing, intense, and intimate” relationships with the people that work for them.

Superbosses are traders in opportunities.
They trust their people and delegate. In the process they compress learning and growth. “Superboss organizations are widely regarded in their industries as launching pads—places where employees can, in word of their protégés, ‘find themselves’ and become ‘capable of doing what we were ultimately meant to do.” They give people the chance to succeed.

Superbosses fashion teams that function as a “band of brothers.”
They “inculcate a cultish sense of difference in their protégés.” Protégés are treated as leaders. “For superbosses, extreme collaboration and meaningful competition aren’t opposites; they go hand in hand.” Finkelstein explains: “One reason healthy, balanced competition is so valuable for organizations is that it generates a ‘cohort effect’ when it comes to talent; the more you help people become better, the more they help one another get better.”

Superbosses create a strategic alumni network.
“Superbosses make an effort to stay in touch with their disciples, even years after they have left.” When an employee walks out the door, the superboss does not consider the relationship over. It’s in their best interests to do so. It increases their own prestige and influence. Successful protégés in their alumni network attract more talent to the superboss.

We need new approaches to nurturing people and the Superboss Playbook presented by Finklestein, is completely learnable by any leader who is fearless, competitive, imaginative, credible, and authentic.

Superbosses is a fascinating look at the leaders that flourish and often change their industries by developing a future generation of leaders.

If you are not working for one, this book will help you to become one.

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The Three Types of Superbosses

Glorious Bastards: These superbosses care about one thing: winning. They’re the ultimate hard drivers, yet they realize that to get the very best results, they need to develop the world’s best people and teams. So they do.
Examples: Larry Ellison, Michael Milken, Bonnie Fuller, Julian Robertson, Jay Chiat

Nurturers: These coaches and teachers resemble traditional mentors the most. They take pride in bringing others along and care deeply about the success of their protégés. They help people accomplish more than they ever thought possible.
Examples: Mary Kay Ash, Bill Walsh, Michael Miles, Norman Brinker, Tommy Frist

Iconoclasts: These executives usually operate in creative fields, where their single-minded passion for their work inspires their protégés.
Examples: Ralph Lauren, Alice Waters, George Lucas, Jon Stewart, Lorne Michaels, Robert Noyce

Available too, is The Superbosses Playbook: A Workbook Companion to Superbosses. It shows readers how to apply the tactics of these "superbosses" in their own organizations. It features assessments, case studies, and exercises designed to help anyone recruit talent, lead performance, inspire teams, and even part with great people like a true superboss.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:40 PM
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Leadership Value is Defined by the Receiver

WE ALL RESONATE with the clarion call for leaders to build on their strengths, be authentic, and demonstrate emotional intelligence. We can envision these noble, resonant, and genuine leaders as icons of effective leadership. But these virtuous leadership attributes are not the essence of leadership effectiveness.

Building on one’s strengths is incomplete unless one’s strengths strengthen someone else. Authenticity without a positive impact on someone else is more narcissism than leadership. Effective leaders turn their emotional intelligence into helping others find their purpose and meaning.

An underlying principle of effective leadership is that value is defined by the receiver more than the giver. This value-added principle applies in almost every relationship. When I give my wife a gift, she defines the value of the gift. When I was newly wed, I got her tickets to sporting events and she often suggested I enjoy myself. I have learned that the real gift is figuring out what will be meaningful to her, not me. Likewise, effective leaders recognize and serve the stakeholders who are impacted by their strengths, authenticity, and emotional style. They then work to deliver value to these stakeholders in ways that matter to the stakeholders.

When leaders focus on the value they create for others, they think less about who they are and how who they are, will make others better. They realize that the value of their values is in that others will achieve what matters to them. Ultimately, leaders are measured by what they leave behind and how their present actions shape future success.

Leaders should be asking themselves, “Who are the stakeholders I care about? Who do I want to make better because of what I do? Who will benefit from my choices today? How will my actions be seen by and affect others?” When pondering and responding to these questions, leaders matter because they create sustained leadership in others.

Value creating leaders talk more about “we” than “I”; they build on what is right more than what is wrong; they help others feel better about themselves when leaving an interaction with them; the work to institutionalize their ideas so that they are sustained; and they relish success in those they mentor.

It is time to look beyond a leader’s personal strengths, authenticity, and emotional well being to define how leaders’ build value for others.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Dave Ulrich. He is the Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and a partner at The RBL Group, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations and leaders deliver value. He studies how organizations build capabilities of leadership, speed, learning, accountability, and talent through leveraging human resources. He has helped generate award winning data bases that assess alignment between strategies, organization capabilities, HR practices, HR competencies, and customer and investor results. He has published more than 200 articles and book chapters and 23 books, such as Leadership Code, Leadership Brand, Results Based Leadership and most recently The Leadership Capital Index: Realizing the Market Value of Leadership.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:07 PM
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7 Coaching Skills that You Need as a Leader

7 Coaching Skills

Whether you like it or not – if you are a leader, you are a coach.
—Joseph Grenny
Coaching exerts enormous leverage.

People struggle at work and at home. No one leaves their problems at the door when they come to work. And it affects their performance. Coaching is critical. Developing people is or should be a top priority of leaders.

Coaching doesn’t mean fixing people. It is developing a relationship that allows you to help people break through from one level of performance to another. It is unlocking potential.

Leadership BS
Michael Simpson writes in Unlocking Potential that coaching is built on four principles:

Building Trust: “Simply being in a position of authority does not make you a trusted coach. Your concern for the person you are coaching must be based on genuine and good intent. Your integrity must be inviolable. Your determination to keep confidences must be unshakable.” These are issues of your character.

Tapping Potential: “When a coach helps a person challenge their paradigms, they can more readily take responsibility for their life or situation. When they learn to align their paradigms to reality, many of the barriers to realizing their potential begin to fall.” “Potential suppressed by years of self-defensiveness, self-betrayal, or self-denial.”

Creating Commitment: You can’t make people commit, “But you can create the conditions where people commit to goals they themselves want to achieve.” This is done primarily by asking powerful coaching questions.

Executing Goals: “All successful coaching conversations need to link directly to actually meeting key performance indicators, measures, and objectives.”

Coaching is a skill with its own set of competencies. Simpson gives seven:
  1. Build Trust: Character and competence are foundational to building trust. As you demonstrate character and competence you can begin to expect it of others and build a culture of trustworthiness.
  2. Challenge Paradigms: “An individual that believes they can’t improve is not coachable—until that paradigm changes, you’ll go nowhere….Your task is to challenge them firmly and gently.”
  3. Seek Strategic Clarity: “With the coach’s help, the individual should choose personal goals and be completely clear about them with measureable endpoints. Without strategic clarity, coaching becomes aimless and endless.”
  4. Execute Flawlessly: “Execution may be the toughest challenge of all—the coach can help individuals to actually set, prioritize, and achieve their goals and help to hold them accountable.”
  5. Give Effective Feedback: “Give feedback that helps create awareness, focus on actions, and achieve the results that people want with whom you’re coaching.”
  6. Tap into Talent: “Most people underestimate their own talents. As a coach you need to know how to help people tap into the unique and vast reserve of the talents they already have.”
  7. Move the Middle: “The biggest opportunity for performance improvement in any organization is to help ‘move the middle,’ among those performers who are good, but not yet great.”

Simpson provides you with the essential questions and approach behind each of these skills. One of the benefits of coaching is that it also helps you to develop you. It holds you to a higher standard.

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Are You Trading Influence for Attention?

Are You Trading Influence for Attention

PEGGY NOONAN brought up some great thoughts in her editorial, A Rash Leader in a Grave Time that would be good for us to consider in any time.

She was referring to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, but too frequently we see the tendency of leaders in all walks of life, to use their “mouth as a blunt instrument” whenever they feel they are in the right, have a just cause, want to get attention, or simply want to put their foot down. Their comments may not be as flamboyant as Donald Trump’s, but they are just as dismissive. Some people find that to be an admirable quality in a leader, until of course, they don’t. When the leader steps on their toes, then the undisciplined rhetoric comes across as contemptuous.

Noonan says that the problem arises when a leader “doesn’t think it through, doesn’t anticipate legitimate pushback, doesn’t try to persuade, only declares.” It is disrespectful and shows a lack of self- and situational-awareness on the part of the leader.

A good leader has a self-awareness of the kind that helps them to understand their impact on others. A good leader seeks to influence and connect with everyone they touch and not just those ardent supporters in their camp. The goal isn’t to just whip up the troops but to gain converts. A leader’s rhetoric may point out differences but with the goal of ultimately bringing reconciliation. Noonan states, “one thing an effective leader must always do is know what can be misunderstood and guard against it, what can be misconstrued and used to paint you—and your followers—as bigoted. Leaders try hard not to let that happen. It is the due diligence of politics.” It’s the due diligence of leaders everywhere.

She uses the word politesse in this regard. In a time when grabbing attention is more important than civility, politesse it not a practical value. Taking the time to be civil or polite and to polish our words is a luxury we can’t afford or we may miss adding our voice to what’s trending. The pressure to respond doesn’t often leave us the time to be thoughtful, measured, and disciplined on our approach. We have to fight the forces that would intimidate us.

That doesn’t mean we can’t be remarkable in our speech. Noonan encourages, “It is possible for candidates to be vivid but careful, dramatic but responsible.

Politesse is a word that implies sacrifice which is at the core of good leadership. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our raw emotions for disciplined thought; our efficient bluntness for long-term understanding.

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5 Leadership Lessons: Players First

5 Leadership Lessons
Players First is a biographical leadership guide from the University of Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari. Although geared towards coaching and college basketball, the lessons and approaches are easily applicable to any other leadership situation.

His Players First philosophy is summed up this way: “I coach for the names on the backs of the jerseys—not just the front. My players. They are sent to me by their fathers, their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunts—whoever in this world raised them and loves them. Others look at their NBA bodies and consider them lucky. Future millionaires, just stopping through before they cash in. That’s not what I see. They’re kids, some of them as young as seventeen years old. They all need me in a different way.
Players First
Some want my affection, others my approval. It’s a burden to be responsible for other people’s children, sometimes a heavy burden.”

From this mindset comes this key point that any leader could ask. “If I’m struggling with a player, it’s where I ask myself: How would I want my own son treated?

These ideas are worth considering in your own leadership situation:

1 There’s not a coach time and a not-coach time. I’m always their coach. If I just walk away, or I look too busy or preoccupied, they don’t know, as a seventeen-year-old or eighteen-year-old, what that means. They wonder, Why did he do that? I don’t want them to think for a moment that I don’t care about them. I don’t want them to have a second’s worth of doubt.

2 The art of coaching at this level is about convincing great athletes to change. First we have to get them to accept what they’re not good at. My assistant coaches and I use the word “surrender.” Surrender to our instruction. Surrender to physical conditioning. If you’re delusional and see yourself one way while the rest of the world see something else, let it go. Believe what we’re telling you. Some player will say, “You just don’t understand my game.” But we do. Believe me, we get it. We’re just not liking it.

You have to be strong willed. You can’t have a mental picture of yourself that’s not accurate.

3 The best players I’ve coached have a demeanor about them that never moves. They have a calmness. You can’t read the score on their faces. They’ll get emotional, they’ll play with fire, but their demeanor will never be one of rage or anger. Physiology-wise, rage and anger are related to fear. Hook a guy up to wires and look at his brain, and that’s what you’ll find. [W]hen you play with a sense of rage, you don’t respond well to being challenged. [When the game is turning against you], you have no calm inner core to bring you back.

4 Part of coaching is acting. It’s true of any kind of leadership, whether you’re a CEO, an army general, or a father. Part of the job is that you don’t reveal your apprehensions. I don’t ever go into games thinking we’re going to lose, but of course I get anxious.

Along the same lines is this note sent to a player:

Alex, work hard to improve your body language. Body language is a facial expression, slouching, dropping your head, how you sand, how you sit, how you speak. Begin today. God created you as a winner and he has big plans for you. Work with him. Be the best. When you feel like you want to drop your head, lift it up. When you feel like slouching your body, stand up straight. When you want to frown or have a sour face, smile. When you feel like complaining, encourage someone else. When someone corrects you, thank God because they care.

5 We can’t have kids whose main thing is that they want respect. I respected you enough to give you a place in a heck of a basketball program and put you with other kids I think you’re going to love. You need to be able to give respect. I look for how kids act in front of the people raising them. If they disrespect their mothers or fathers or grandmothers, that’s it. I’m no longer interested.

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The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Gift That Keeps on Giving

LEADERSHIP is stewardship. It requires a long term perspective.

It is difficult because it is fundamentally a process of reconciliation; a process of bringing a community of people together towards a common purpose. It is service.

Stewardship requires that the organizational leaders put leadership in the hands of every member of the organization. It gives them ownership of the future. As leaders, it is where we can contribute the most good for society as a whole. It’s good stewardship.

In Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia’s remarkable book, Everybody Matters, they explain the idea this way:

So many American businesses destroy lives every day, but we make a lot of money, and then we feel really good when we write a check to the United Way for $1 million. But I believe we are creating the need for the United Way in the first place by destroying the lives of people who create the wealth that enable us to give. I believe the greatest charity is what we could do at work every day to take care of the people entrusted to us.

The greatest gift, the greatest charity we can give back to society is to be truly human leaders who treat the people under our leadership with profound respect and care and not as objects for our success and wealth. In other words, we need to see ourselves as stewards of the lives we have been given an opportunity to lead and influence.

As a leader, ask everyone you influence, “How can I serve you?

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Leadership BS

Leadership BS

Leadership BS by Jeffrey Pfeffer, is a very important book. It actually builds on the ideas and thinking presented in his classic book written with Bob Sutton, The Knowing Doing Gap over a decade ago.

Pfeffer wants to know why, in spite of the thousands of leadership books, blogs, and seminars, are there so many leadership failures? Pfeffer believes that the answer is to be found in the systemic processes that produce leaders who often behave differently from what most people might like or expect.

He’s right.

As a society, we produce and reward leaders who think short-term, and this is at odds with what it takes to get the leaders we think we want.

As we look around there are disconnects between:

• what leaders say and do,
• what the leadership industry says leaders should be doing and what they actually do,
• reality and the simplistic fixes we try to apply to it,
• what the leadership industry thinks it is achieving and what is actually happening or rather not happening,
• what we say we want and what we actually reward.

It’s not surprising that students of leadership often become disillusioned upon entering the workplace. Life rarely adheres to the good leader formula of success they have come to know.

Leadership BS is a compendium of human nature. It describes well the hypocrisy in all of us. We don’t always meet our own standards. We don’t always reward what we say we value. The real world doesn’t behave as it should. These are life issues as much as they are leadership issues. Consider the following comments from Leadership BS:

Once people believe they are better leaders—possibly because they have given talks or written about positive leadership, have attended lots of leadership trainings, or because they were once acknowledged for their good leadership—they are less likely to be as vigilant about their subsequent behavior, having already demonstrated their leadership credentials.

Although modesty may be valued in the leadership literature, self-promotion and assertiveness seem to produce better career results in the real world.

We seem to have a preference for immodest, grandiose, and narcissistic leaders. Narcissism and self-aggrandizement and the behaviors associated with these constructs reliably and consistently predict the selection of leaders, the evaluations made after interviews, and the selection of emergent leadership.

And finally, this would seem to be a fairly typical experience. Pfeffer was asking a woman who was being outmaneuvered by a peer how she responded to the whole thing:

She said that she responded by using her learning and ideas from a leadership course on personal dynamics, colloquially referred to as “touchy-feely,” to attempt to repair the relationship with her peer. “Why?” Pfeffer asks. “Because I have been taught to build relationships of authenticity and trust at work.” But it didn’t work because the peer was not interested in “repairing a relationship” or behaving with trust and authenticity; he was interested in taking over her team for his own advantage. Pfeffer comments: People not only have problems in their current positions, but they also lose out on attractive job opportunities by believing in the prescriptions so frequently proffered for how leaders should behave.

The leadership values aren’t the problem. It really becomes a “why” problem for each individual. Why do I believe what I believe? What kind of person do I want to be and why? How important is it to me to be this kind of person, and why?

The fact is, you are going out into a world that doesn’t work the way it “should.” People are not always trustworthy, authentic, honest, supportive, generous, or any number of other highly regarded values. If you want to adhere to them you need to understand that the playing field isn't level. Not all organizations encourage virtuous behaviors.

Frequently, people do what works for them in the moment to get what they think they want now. It’s short-term thinking, but for many, it seems to work. Leadership BS reads a bit like the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon illuminated some of the same issues almost 3,000 years ago. He noted that “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.” (I wonder if Pfeffer peruses Ecclesiastes in the quiet moments.) Organizations that tolerate less-than-virtuous behavior will get less-than-virtuous behavior.

Machiavellian values would not still be circulating almost 500 years after they were first published if they did not “work” in the real world. They do, and quite spectacularly at times. So I have to ask myself, “What is most important to me?” knowing that I may not get some of the things I want out of life if I stick to my values. It is a commitment issue. Values are personal and they stand up to whatever is happening around you. If they don’t they’re not values. They’re strategies. Strategies change when conditions change. Some people will argue that “I’ll temporarily trade my values in on a bigger prize and then I’ll go back to them after I get what I want”—the corner office for instance. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Either way, there’s always a price.

It’s a question of character. It is the same problem faced by schoolchildren every day: Do I compromise my values to get along, to be accepted, or to be promoted to the head of the line?

Narcissistic people often get the spotlight as Pfeffer noted. This can be confusing if a person doesn’t have the support structure to navigate human nature. We need to get better at building character from day one. Leadership begins in the home.

Pfeffer chides the leadership industry for focusing too much on inspiration and not enough on the reality of the world in which we live. And he is right. Inspiration is important as people need a vision, but there needs to be accountability along the way.

The leadership industry is so obsessively focused on the normative—what leaders should be doing and how things ought to be—that it has largely ignored asking the fundamental question of what actually is true and going on and why. Unless and until leaders are measured for what they really do and for actual workplace conditions, and until these leaders are held accountable for improving both their own behavior and, as a consequence, workplace outcomes, nothing will change.

He’s talking about creating accountability for what we say we value. Character is a long-term, life-long issue. Do you always stick to your beliefs even when you might lose in the moment for doing so? Fred Kiel demonstrates there is a long-term payoff for doing the right thing in his book Return on Character. The problem we all face in the short-term is that not everyone is playing by the same rules.

This isn’t a problem that is ever going to go away. We are all human and will continue to be human. We do need to work on ourselves but it is also an organizational problem. As Pfeffer and Sutton write in The Knowing-Doing Gap: “Some organizations are consistently able to turn knowledge into action and do so even as they grow and absorb new people and even other organizations.” The difference between organizations that do and organizations that don’t comes “more from their management systems and practices than from differences in the quality of their people.”

The leadership industry certainly could do more. Knowing without doing leads nowhere.

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5 Leadership Lessons: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season

Meyer Above the Line

URBAN MEYER is an elite college football coach and currently the head football coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. In Above the Line Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season he presents the lessons he has learned over his career.

Meyer says, “A leader is someone who earns trust, sets a clear standard, and then equips and inspires people to meet that standard.”

1  Ironically, some coaches are so preoccupied with pushing for results that they fail to build a culture that sustains the behavior that produces results. But winning behavior will not thrive in a culture that does not support it.

2  If your habits don’t reflect your dreams and goals, you can either change your habits or change your dreams and goals.

3  Do whatever you can to reinforce someone’s confidence by helping him to achieve small victories. So much of leadership comes down to knowing the people you are leading and providing them with what they need to succeed. It is also about making them confident to take risks and make changes.

4  When things aren’t going right, the most important thing you can do is slow down, go deep, and figure out why. It is very easy in the world we live in to get so caught up in the tyranny of the urgent that we don’t make time to think. There are many distractions that pull leaders away from investing the time necessary to reflect on the issues and challenges facing their organizations.

5  Leadership is more about trust you have earned than the authority you have been granted. You must earn the right for people to follow you. It is about equipping people with the tools necessary to get and stay Above the Line. It’s about maximizing their talent and their lives. You are stretching people, helping then change and grow. You are taking people to places they never thought they would reach. You are helping them live better lives. Remember, you can’t lead people to a place that you are not going to as well. If it isn’t happening in you, it won’t happen through you.

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5 Leadership Lessons from Herb Greenburg

5 Leadership Lessons
Herb Greenberg, who lost his sight at age 10, developed a test to help companies assess potential employees’ abilities. He leveraged that into the global management-consulting firm, Caliper, in 1961. From What You Aren't Seeing: The Inspiring Story of Herb Greenberg we have the following lessons:

1  Leading starts with being clear about what you are willing to accept and what you need to fight for.

2  When you pull those around you into a cause that is noble and just, their collective spirit can transcend what they are capable of individually. That is when true leadership inspires. By tapping into our aspirations. We are all seeking meaning—and to be meaningful. We want to be part of something that is larger than ourselves. When a leader creates a clear sense of purpose, we respond because it helps to clarify our identity—why we are here, what we, ultimately, stand for. And when we stand for something together, feeling a strong sense of belonging, we get a glimpse into new possibilities—for ourselves and for others.

3  What are the personality attributes needed to succeed as a manager? You need to be bright enough to be able to think on your feet. You also need to be assertive enough to be able to push an agenda forward. Of course, you need to be persuasive, so you can bring others around and create consensus. In Addition, you need to be resilient enough to rebound from difficult situations that might arise. You also need to be self-motivated, as well as have what we call external structure, or the ability to organize thoughts, work and, people. And last, but not least, you need to have a high sense of urgency, or a need to get things done—now, rather than later.

4  Leadership is not something you can designate or anoint. Leadership is about the willingness of individuals to step up, take responsibility, become accountable, accept risk, and move forward. When you see someone who has those qualities and the drive to continuously improve, then, with recognition, mentoring, training, and experience, they might evolve from managing to leading. But there is no simple formula.

5  Leading is about being able to inspire others and succeeding through them, as you help them succeed.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:41 PM
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Fairness is Overrated

Fairness is Overrated
Fairness is Overrated is a solid leadership primer on what it takes to create a healthy culture day-in and day-out. Tim Stevens comes from a Church leadership perspective. However, his 52 principles are applicable anywhere because people are people with the same issues—only the peer pressure changes (unfortunately).

The 52 principles are organized around four key areas: Be a leader worth following, Find the right people, Build a healthy culture and Lead confidently through a crisis.

Stevens begins with “live a life with margins” and ends with the “five stages of failure.” Living a life with margin structured in not only helps all of the other leadership principles discussed here but it helps you move through the five stages of failure faster. So it’s a foundational principle.

A leader worth following has integrity. It’s about character. Knowing yourself and disconnecting is an important way to maintain integrity. You need to build space for what’s important.

Finding the right people—finding and developing leaders—is the most important thing his did as an executive pastor. “Here is what I believe to my core: the success of leaders will rise or fall based on the decisions they make about the people around them.”

When hiring people Stevens recommends not going solo. Get others involved. Chemistry is more important than skills, experience, or education. Use social media to “get to know” the people you are considering. Look for how they treat people they disagree with. Hiring too quickly leads to problems. Pay well. “You don’t want staff to join because of money. You don’t want staff to stay because of money. You don’t want staff to leave because of money.”

If you have a healthy culture, people are waiting in line to join your organization. A healthy culture is led by a leader who is not insecure about others succeeding. Gossip is not tolerated. Employees do life together; it’s not just a job.

In a healthy culture a leader turns over authority to others. Let your leaders lead. “No organization, church, government, or company can have a healthy culture and be run by a dictator, monarch, or single personality.” You need a strong team running the organization.

What Stevens is talking about here is humility. A toxic culture cannot be changed without it.

Leading confidently through a crisis means trusting the people you have in place to figure it out. A confident leader is not one that says, “I can figure it out” but one that says, “We can figure it out.” Having a great team in place is critical here. If you have found the right people and developed a healthy culture, then it becomes easier to lead confidently in a crisis.

These 52 principles are easier to implement if you have people who will speak truth to you. Again, humility is key here.

There is a lot to be considered in this book. It is well-written (a bit of a page turner) and you will want to go back again and again to see how you measure up.

And by the way, fairness is overrated. “Don’t confuse fairness with justice. Justice is about doing what is right. Fairness means everyone gets exactly the same thing.” It's about priorities.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:03 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership , Management


Could Embracing Ignorance Improve Your Leadership?

Ignorant Maestro
Orchestral conductor Itay Talgam writes in The Ignorant Maestro, that “the greatest leaders not only embrace ignorance but are convinced it is an essential choice on their part, allowing their people to reach upper floors that haven’t even been built yet.”

In short, your willingness to let go of knowing—the conscious decision to be ignorant, to not know the answers, not even try to predict them—and embrace the unknown will be the crucial tipping point in making you the best leader you can be.

The ignorance that Talgam speaks of is not about having a lake of knowledge, but being open to exploring other knowledge. It is humility. It is built on our knowledge but it is the willingness to go beyond what we know—to explore the unknown—so that the future is a matter of choice rather than the result of inertial thinking.

Ignorance combined with two other qualities, the willingness to explore the gaps and listening, can create the space for others to fully express themselves.

Gaps arise from incompatibilities; when something doesn’t make sense; the difference between what we say and do. They invite exploration and creative work. “Gaps with the most potential are often the most intimidating ones, so they are probably covered with layers of tradition, routine, and ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it here’ attitude.”

“When we avoid gaps,” say Talgam, “we give up the possibility of choosing an interpretation for them, of putting them into context, of giving them a story. Our openness to new meanings is what allows the freedom to choose a different future. This invites the constructive participation of all stakeholders and that requires a high degree of listening.

Great leaders listen from the perspective of ignorance. Instead of focusing on transmitting knowledge, focus on creating dialogue. Create the space for dialogue and learning by listening. “As a leader your choice for ignorance makes you focus on the learning processes of your people, supporting them in their autonomous discoveries.” Listening focuses on holding the space open for that exchange rather than on the outcome.

“Gaps are the renewable fuel of new thinking, enabling change. Gaps exploration, around your organization’s leading values and ideas, is a great sustainable energy source.” You explore gaps by “choosing to be ignorant, and by listening from the unique perspective of ignorance.”

Talgam looks at the leadership styles of six great conductors in terms of how each of them did or do embrace ignorance, explored gaps and listened. In terms of leaders creating a connection with those they lead, the example of Leonard Bernstein is instructive. For Bernstein it was not a nicety but a necessity.
For a precious half hour or so he was not rehearsing at all but moving around among people, greeting each and every player by name, his arm around a shoulder, hugging some and kissing others. Engaged in a hundred conversations, he was catching up with domestic news, remembering names of children and events he had been told about maybe a year earlier. These were not just niceties but the manifestation of relations based on empathy and mutual trust. These precious thirty minute were the basis for making music together.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:23 AM
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Creating a Dare-to-Serve Culture

Dare to Serve

COMMAND and control is a leadership style that is in many ways our default leadership position. It’s very human. Leadership that serves is far more demanding of a leader. These demands easily drive us back into our old styles of leadership. It’s the daily grind that derails our best intentions.

Cheryl Bachelder became the CEO of the ailing Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in 2007. By 2014 she had turned it around by deciding to lead through service. Dare to Serve is her account of the turnaround. It is valuable because it describes the thinking behind the servant leader approach and the daily decisions that were made and are necessary to successfully adopt servant leadership in an organization. This is not servant leadership theory. It is servant leadership in day-to-day behavior.

She began with two decisions: to think positively about the people you lead and to be a leader who serves others over self-interest. These are based on six behaviors that are essential to serving people well and delivering superior performance: passion, listening, planning, coaching, accountability, and humility. These behaviors define how we will work together.

Bachelder lists five benefits to becoming a Dare-to-Serve Leader:

  1. People will tell you the stuff you need to know because they have taken the time to get to know their people well.
  2. People will be more likely to follow your bold vision because they know you have their best interests at heart.
  3. People will actually do the stuff you need to get done without a lot of reminding because they are not “leader dependent.”
  4. People will perform better because they have a safe environment focused on personal growth, promotion opportunities, and the “fun” of winning together.
  5. People will watch out for you and protect you from yourself because they, like you, are doing what’s right for the team.

What do you believe enough to act on? These are core beliefs that are so important to you that you will act promptly to rectify the situation when they are violated. Dare-to-Serve Leaders act on three core beliefs: human dignity, personal responsibility, and humility.

We tend to be careless with human dignity says Bachelder. We don’t listen, we are impatient, we publicly criticize, and joke in ways that hurt. Push your daily situations through a filter of what you would like someone to do for you.

“Lack of personal responsibility in a leader is just another form of self-absorption.” You must look at yourself and understand your own imperfections. “You will have no capacity to serve others unless you can take responsibility for your own self.”

Humility is the “behavior” that makes it all work. “We agreed that we are not naturally humble either. That means there are plenty of days we are hell to work for, too. Therefore, humility must be a principle that we have conviction about—or we will never demonstrate humility to our teams. This principle will forever be an aspiration, not an accomplishment. As hard as we try, we will repeatedly fall short.”

Bachelder has included 40 reflections for Dare-to-Serve Leaders to help you think about the leader you are.

How do you gain meaningful feedback from those you serve?

How well do you know the people who work for you? Do you know the three or four events of their lives that have shaped who they are today?

What is your daring aspiration for your team that is beyond what they know how to accomplish?

How would your daily behaviors be different if you put them through a filter of serving others well?

In short, “If you move yourself out of the spotlight and dare to serve others, you will deliver superior performance results.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:30 PM
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Cleaning the Toilet Can Make You a Better Leader

Clean Toilet
Leadership doesn’t make you better than anyone else, it make you more responsible.

As a leader you are more than an individual contributor. Leaders think about the context—the big picture—not just their function. Focused on the outcome, they do whatever needs to be done to move the organization forward. They do whatever they can to facilitate the work of others.

Leaders are connected to what others are doing. And we can accomplish this be asking, “How can I help you?” And then doing what needs to be done.

Michael Janda Founder of the creative agency RiSER, put it this way in Burn Your Portfolio:
I believe you are a better person if you’ve ever had a job that required you to clean a public restroom. This humbling task teaches so many lessons, among which is the willingness to do whatever the job requires. I have seen over and over again in my career that the people who are willing to go the extra mile and do whatever task is required of them by their boss or client are among the most valued in the company.

Ultimately, cleaning public toilets early in life is not the only way to learn gratitude and humble service to others. Many people are fortunate to learn these lessons in their homes. Others are born with service built deep inside of them. Regardless of how you learn to serve, learn it and learn it well.
Doing what needs to be done—including cleaning toilets—is taking ownership for the outcome. Going the extra mile—doing what needs to be done—helps to create a true culture of leadership in your organization—by example.

We don’t serve because we are leaders, we have the privilege to lead because we serve.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:34 PM
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Booknotes: Leadership Vertigo, Kidding Ourselves

Booknotes ☙ In Leadership Vertigo, authors S. Max Brown and Tanveer Naseer explain that there is a gap between what we know we should be doing and what we are actually doing. They call it “leadership vertigo” and they attribute it to false signals in our daily perceptions that inform us that we’re moving in a certain direction when in reality we’re not.

How do we avoid leadership vertigo? If we live the following four principles it will help us to keep our focus where it should be and avoid leadership vertigo: “We need to create a feeling of community, of being a part of something bigger than a collection of individuals. We need to consistently respond with an inquisitive mind, actively listening to our employees to learn from their experiences so that we can encourage them to share their creativity and insights. This is especially true when you are dealing with mistakes and failures. We also need to make sure that our employees see the authenticity behind our words and actions so that they will trust the compassion we exhibit in light of the challenges or obstacles they face.”

☙ Joseph Hallinan deals with the same issues in Kidding Ourselves. He writes, “We engage in self-deception so seamlessly, across so many aspects of our lives, that it seems, to be an inherent human quality—a built-in shock absorber that allows us to adjust to life’s stresses and strains not by altering ourselves, but by altering our perceptions.” He notes that this is not all bad. It allows us to adapt and persevere when the odds are against us. We like to believe that we are in control. It may be an illusion but the results it produces are real—to us.

☙ At the same time, “Once we have an opinion about how something should be, that expectation often colors our perception of how that thing actually is.” (Sounds like leadership vertigo.) The tail begins to wag the dog and our perceptions conform to our expectations. “When we look, we look with a purpose—we don’t look at something; we look for something…We tend to see what we expect to see and to experience what we expect to experience.

☙ Hallinan expertly draws our attention to a number of ways we deceive ourselves quite unconsciously. “There is very little we are not capable of seeing or believing.” While a little self-deception can lead to optimism, perseverance and success, being mindful of our proclivity for it can save us. “Striving to see the world accurately is immensely better than seeing is inaccurately.”

Leadership Vertigo Kidding Ourselves
Buy at AMZN Buy at AMZN

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:39 AM
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Eight Critical Questions for Leading with Intention

Leading With Intention
Your leadership effectiveness is a direct result of the level of intention with which you operate.

In Leading With Intention, author Mindy Hall says leading with intention means “consciously deciding to lead by design rather than by default; being mindful of who it is you want to be and then living into that picture twenty-four hours a day. It is about seeing opportunities every day, in every interaction, to shape the tone, the experience, and the outcome of those interactions.”

Everything you do sends a message. It begins with self-awareness. “The rest is practice, consistency, and continuous effort.” Here are eight critical questions from Leading With Intention that the intentional leader needs to ask:
  1. What kind of environment do you create in your interactions with others? Does it inspire people to be their best? You are 100% responsible for the tone you set.
  2. Are you clear about your intentions? The simple act of being clear in your own mind about your intentions helps you come across as more grounded, prepared, and transparent.
  3. Do you have preconceived notions or mind-sets of a person or situation? Mindsets are not static; they are dynamic and with new information and/or experience we can shift our mind-sets. The key is being conscious of your mind-sets and being open to challenging them.
  4. Do you challenge those mindsets? Today’s business environment requires the ability to see beyond one’s own perspective.
  5. How open are you to your own learning? How open are you to your own learning, to changing what isn’t working, to seeking out new experiences, and to not being defensive of diverse opinions even when they are radically different than your own?
  6. Do you do what you say you are going to do? People pay more attention to what you do than what you say, and your behavior speaks volumes.
  7. How would others describe you as a leader? Leaders must actively manage their presence in every interaction, both formal and informal.
  8. Why do you do the work you do?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:14 PM
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Efficiency is the Wrong Mindset for a Leader


EFFICIENCY always seems like the right answer. It’s reflexive. Faster. Easier. Who doesn’t want that?

And yet while efficiency is critical and often a competitive advantage, it is a problem when it becomes a mindset that is applied to everything we do; when it becomes an excuse for our lack of real connection. Faster and easier is not always better. As leaders, we have to know the difference. Some things are better over time. There is no such thing as efficient leadership. If efficiency is digital, leadership is analog.

Leadership is about influence and mobilizing people to achieve a common goal. This is done through relationships. Relationships do not benefit from efficiency.

Much of the practice of leadership is a process. If you rush the process you miss the fundamental issues that create meaning and engagement. Leaders are action-oriented people to be sure. Holding another meeting, having critical conversations, and reinforcing commitments, principles, and values can seem like a waste of time especially when you see the goal and the need to get moving so clearly. But if you don’t take the time to do these things, you may end up on your own—leading no one. Leadership does not exist until we create a relationship with another person. It is our relationships that result in the actions we seek.

The efficiency—quality and flexibility—you get from people is primarily based on the relationship you have with them. Creating partners takes time. Distributing ownership takes time. The idea is to build relationships so that people in your sphere of influence, flourish.

Growth is rarely an efficient affair. It’s almost never a straight line. People have emotions, feelings, and history and that takes time to understand and work with. If we are to grow and learn and innovate we have to leave room for the inefficient. Growth is born in the question. Efficiency rarely leaves room for questions. It is a tension that has to be managed. We have to learn to maximize efficiency without restricting growth.

We know when it comes to people, better doesn’t always mean faster. Easier isn’t always the best way. But if we approach the practice of leadership with an efficiency-based mindset, we will look for shortcuts through a process that necessarily requires time and patience. The straight line can miss so much. The crooked path often adds the depth and color to our life that we can’t get in any other way.

Good relationships cultivated over time will bring you the level of commitment you want when you need it the most. If you haven't taken the time to build relationships all you have is a gun. Take the time now to build trusting, caring relationships with the people you serve.

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Four Disciplines of Organizational Health Relationships Matter

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:07 AM
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The Age of Enlightenment and You

Age of Enlightenment and You

Booknotes HISTORY affects the context we lead in. An understanding of the Age of Enlightenment—that still reverberates today—gives us a good basis to grasp the kind of world we are leading in. James MacGregor Burns’ Fire and Light is a good place to start. While the values of the Enlightenment and the importance of the individual seem unimaginable to live without, they do come at a price: a common and accessible worldview built on a firm foundation. Here are some ideas from his book:

☙ Enlightenment remains the most powerful tool for challenging authority and liberating the human mind, an inspiration to leaders and followers worldwide, a method for effective change, and a framework of values by which that change can be measured.

☙ No single idea of the Enlightenment was so laden and sweeping as this. If people could transform their minds, they could change their lives, and together with others they could change their communities and beyond.

☙ Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was less a guide to committed leadership than a resounding statement of Enlightenment ideals that had served its purpose of uniting Americans for war.

☙ Thomas Paine’s Common Sense expressed an aspiration that lay at the heart of the Enlightenment, the dream of revolutionaries everywhere, that the people “have in our power to begin the world over again.”

☙ No one had a greater role in fashioning the American experiment, basing the government on Enlightenment principle and then testing them in action than James Madison.

☙ Pursuing private interests, untethered to the thick social structure of old aristocracies, lacking deep familial roots, free of tradition and inherited beliefs, constantly on the move, democratic man, in Tocqueville’s portrait was profoundly alone. Lacking them, people would be crushed under the hypertrophy of selfhood; they would suffer the full consequences of the liberal society that made the isolated self the measure of all things personal and political and the market economy that made money the measure of all things economic and social.

☙ For Enlightenment pioneers, it meant embracing mankind as the measure of all things—not authority, not custom, not faith, but individual perception and reason were the foundation of truth.

☙The Enlightenment has created the opportunity and freedom to take part in a mighty intellectual revolution that has changed the lives of whole peoples. Indeed, the Enlightenment has taught that change is the constant, and that the opportunity and burden for human beings is to harness it for their common benefit.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:58 AM
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These Are Hard Times for Leaders

Hard Times for Leaders

Hard Times
BARBARA KELLERMAN has written about leaders (good and bad) and followers, but in Hard Times she turns her attention to the often-overlooked context in which we lead. Leaders, followers, and context, form a system of leadership.

“More than ever,” writes Kellerman, “it is better—better in practice and better in theory—to focus less on the leader and more on the leadership system.” It is difficult to navigate or change systems without understanding the underlying context they exist in. We diminish our capacity to lead when we don’t consider all aspects of leadership. Hard Times is about context. It’s not about looking in but looking out.

Everywhere leaders are finding it difficult to lead without using or threatening to use force because everywhere followers are making their lives difficult—and because everywhere context is both a cause and an effect of this power dynamic.

So this book is about what leaders need to know to develop contextual expertise. Her extensive examination considers twenty-four different ways the context in which we lead shapes leadership now—in the United States—in the second decade of the twenty-first century. However, much of what she discusses is global because it is human.

Tackling America’s historical background, she writes, “When the history of a country leaves a legacy that renders its citizens virtually allergic to authority, leadership is more difficult.” The capacity to persuade is more important than the capacity to control.

In examining religion, economics, organizations, law, business, technology, and media, the common thread is the diminishment of the leader. Leaders of the twenty-first-century “are likely to have less power, authority, and influence” than leaders of the twentieth-century making things “more complex and complicated than simpler and easier.”

Other contextual issues like money as influence, the anxiety of innovation, the competitive need to be first, class distinctions, cultural pressures, divisiveness, special interest groups, environmental issues, and risk management, have all intensified. These all serve to undermine leadership confidence and put us off-balance.

Risk management is not something that we generally like to spend our time thinking about. And unfortunately, some risk management platitudes only serve to put us asleep—only to wake up when a real risk comes along and we are ill-prepared to deal with it. We need to develop “risk management based not on what we know, or think we know, but on what we do not know.”

Leaders and followers have changed in profound ways too. In general, says Kellerman, all this adds up to the fact that leaders are getting weaker. Leaders may not have less influence but they do have less power. Titles mean less and “status means less, which means that their ability to lead has lessened as well.”As Kellerman, Moisés Naím and others have argued, power is “undergoing a historic and world-changing transformation. Big players are increasingly being challenged by newer and smaller ones, and those who have power are more constrained in the way they can use it.”

While I think this has always been and will continue to be an underlying truth on a micro level, we may very well see a backlash on this trend at the macro level. Time will tell.

The most obvious reason leaders have been enfeebled are first, changes in culture that entitled and embolden subordinates to demean and diminish their putative superiors, and second, changes in technology that enable ordinary people to obtain information, engage in self-expression, and make interpersonal connections in ways and to degrees that historically are unprecedented.

Increasingly, unable to rely on power and authority, on a more general level leaders are having to become what true leadership is about: influence. Exercising influence is what leaders should have been doing (and should have been trained to do) instead of relying on position and power because they could get away with it. Leaders “are more dependent than they ever were on their capacity to exercise influence.”

As leaders we need to keep focused not just on the leader and the followers but on the context in which they interact. “Leading has become a high-wire act that only the most skilled are able to perform successfully over a protracted period of time.”

We leaders and followers (and we are all both) have both allowed our standards (character) to drop. If we are to become leaders and followers that work together for the common good, we need to start talking about what we should do not what we can do. The goal is not getting what we want, but getting what is best. That requires more than knee–jerk opinions and more thoughtful consideration.

Kellerman’s insight at the end of the book is worth repeating because it says so much: “Leadership is not a profession.” Amen.

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Wrong with Leadership Training Good Followers Make the Best Leaders

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:15 AM
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Leading People Like Family

Leading People Like Family

Leaders Eat Last
IN Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek shares an insight he learned from Bob Chapman, Chairman and CEO of the Barry-Wehmiller Companies. It’s an important way of framing our leadership responsibility:

Every single employee is someone’s son or someone’s daughter. Parents work to offer their children a good life and a good education and to teach them the lessons that will help them grow up to be happy, confident and able to use all the talents they were blessed with. Those parents then hand their children over to a company with the hope the leaders of that company will exercise the same love and care as they have. “It is we, the companies, who are now responsible for these precious lives,” says Chapman.

Sinek explains: “Being a leader is like being a parent, and the company is like a new family to join. One that will care for us like we are their own … in sickness and in health. And if we are successful, our people will take on our company’s name as a sign of the family to which they are loyal.” He adds, “It is about committing to the well-being of those in our care and having a willingness to make sacrifices to see their interests advanced so that they may carry our banner long after we are gone.”

Circle of Safety To that end we have to protect our people by creating what Sinek calls a Circle of Safety. We constantly face threats to our survival; forces working to hinder our success. These come of course, from without the organization and are these threats are largely beyond our control. But they also come from within our organizations and are well within our control. He writes:

Intimidation, humiliation, isolation, feeling dumb, feeling useless and rejection are all stresses we try to avoid inside the organization. But the danger is controllable and it should be the goal of leadership to set a culture free of danger from each other. And the way to do that is by giving people a sense of belonging. By offering them a strong culture based on a clear set of human values and beliefs. By giving them the power to make decisions. By offering them trust and empathy. By creating a Circle of Safety.

Too often, people are trying to protect themselves from leaders that are willing to sacrifice anyone to advance their own careers. “Without a Circle of Safety, people are forced to spend too much time and energy protecting themselves from each other.” We thrive when we feel safe in our group.

Leaders can be found at any level in an organization. They are the ones who are willing to give of themselves for the sake of others.

The title of the book—Leaders Eat Last—comes from a conversation with a Marine Corps general. He said, “Officers eat last.” Sinek watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What’s symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort—even their own survival—for the good of those in their care. In a world where far too many leaders are looking out for themselves, Sinek offers numerous insights about the kind of sacrifice required to be a great leader.

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Got Wingmen It's Not Who You Know

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:03 PM
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Six Critical Leadership Moments

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

The six critical moments are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:56 PM
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Quick and Nimble: A Leadership Companion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:48 PM
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Leading Through Uncertainty

Leading Through Uncertainty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:22 PM
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The White Knight Syndrome

White Knight Syndrome

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

We can get a little self-important and think that we need to mount our white horse and begin a crusade to save the kingdom—charging through the organization bringing everyone in line with our way of thinking and our way of doing things. We know best and if they can’t see it, well then, they’re wrong. But before we do we should consider these questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:49 AM
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The 8 Elements that Bring People Together

Finding Allies

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

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

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

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

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

1. A Common Pain is a shared problem that motivates different people/groups to work together in ways that could otherwise seem counterintuitive. Value alliances “exist at the intersection of self-interest and common interest.” We often become collaborators when we discover that we can solve a problem on our own. “Few people are willing to place themselves in a collaborative position of they have an alternative.” (As a side note, leaders, because of their position and the authority it brings them, usually have an alternative—my way or the highway. The best leaders collaborate anyway.)

Collaborations require time, money, and people. The collaborative process is more complex, slower, and messier than independent decision-making. To be willing to give up a degree of independence and control, a given leader must believe the problem poses a serious threat to the enterprise.

2. A Convener of Stature is a respected and influential presence who can bring people to the table and, when necessary, keep them there. “The inability to turn down an offer is one sign that you’re dealing with a convener of stature.” The book lays out the roles and responsibilities of the convener.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:43 AM
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The Good Struggle

The Good Struggle

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 a particular direction, but to do so in a flexible, open-ended way.” Decision making has to be as fluid as the markets around them. “Execution as learning.” “Instead of periodic big decisions, responsible leaders make or orchestrate an unending series of smaller ones—all aimed at some larger, broad, flexible objective.”

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

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

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

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

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The Gift of Struggle Art of Struggle

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Why We Need Strangers

Why We Need Strangers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:42 PM
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Henry Ford on Leadership

Henry Ford on Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

On Failure:

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

On Lifelong Learning:

  • Education is not something to prepare you for life; it is a continuous part of life.
  • Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.
  • All that I personally own of any value is my experience, and that cannot be taken away. One should not complain of having one’s fund of experience added to.

On Success:

  • It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.
  • If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
  • My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me..
  • Don’t find fault, find a remedy..
  • Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.
  • Paying attention to simple little things that most men neglect makes a few men rich.
  • Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.
  • You say I started out with practically nothing, but that isn’t correct. We all start with all there is. It’s how we use it that makes things possible.

On Passion:

  • You can do anything if you have enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes rise to the stars.
On Character:
  • The greatest thing we can produce is character. Everything else can be taken away from us.
On Courage:
  • One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his surprise, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.

On Initiative:

  • The unhappiest man on earth is the one who has nothing to do.
  • I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.

On Teamwork:

  • Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.
  • You can take my factories, burn up my buildings, but give me my people and I’ll build the business right back again.

On Personal Responsibility:

  • What I greatly hope for these children, and for children everywhere, is a new attitude toward life – free from the gullibility which thinks we can get something for nothing; free from the greed which thinks any permanent good can come of overreaching others.
  • You will find men who want to be carried on the shoulders of others, who think that the world owes them a living. They don’t seem to see that we must all lift together and pull the weight.
  • The genius of the American people is self-reliance. The old principles that made us great – self-direction and self-help – are still contemporary and valid.
  • Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.

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The Business of Belief

The Business of Belief

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

Business of Belief
TOM ASACKER reveals the role of belief in leadership in The Business of Belief.

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

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

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

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

This is where, I believe leadership comes in. And Asacker addresses that in part two:

Those skilled at motivating people to cross a new bridge to change their beliefs and behavior, are not trying to cajole or manipulate them against their will. Rather, they seek to guide them to a new destination, a transformed way of feeling, thinking and acting that's aligned with their personal desires and values.

Effective leaders know that the first essential step to changing people's behavior is to understand their perspectives and embrace their desires and beliefs. Everything else flows naturally from there.

To paraphrase industrial designer Dieter Rams, good leaders "must have an intuition for the reality in which people live." It's one of the reasons that self-centered leaders struggle. Great leaders, as Asacker writes, must design new beliefs. "Creating belief is about affect before effect. It's about finding people who want to believe and making them feel comfortable." It's about making it ours.

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

In part three, Asacker turns to what we can do personally to understand and manage our own beliefs. He issues this challenge:

Face it: We are either breaking out of our spirit-sucking routines and breaking through to new insights and experiences, or we are breaking down. So when the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone arrives, and it definitely will come, take it. Say no to the sure thing and say yes to a creative challenge. Say no to short-term, comfort producing activities, and say yes to fear, passion and leadership.

I've only scratched the surface here. The Business of Belief is full of thought-provoking ideas and statements that will make you think. Perhaps I should say they will distract you. "Distractions and difficulties turn on our thinking mind, which undermines belief by overriding our instincts." May you be distracted.

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:14 PM
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Leadership and the Art of Struggle: 5 Things You Can Do

Art Of Struggle

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.

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.)

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

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People are Job 1

People are Job 1

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

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

Lyman makes the point that people are integral to our ability in every single area in our organizations and if we do not include consideration of people in every aspect of our work, then we are doing ourselves and our organizations a great disservice. Yet it is not uncommon to find leaders who see people as the problem—the distraction—that takes them away from their work. Our work is people.

Trustworthy leaders…understand the complexity of bringing together a group of human beings to pursue extraordinary accomplishments. They are masters at guiding, directing, encouraging, and challenging people to contribute their best, in part because they ask the same of themselves. Trustworthy leaders know that their relationships with others throughout the organization are key to their success—however, success is measured.

Lyman identifies six elements that both influence how a leader acts and reflect how that person thinks about being a leader:

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

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

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

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

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

Ability to Move through Uncertainty to pursue Opportunities—The skillful weighing of risks and rewards attached to the opportunities available is one of the most important actions that leaders can take on.

When employees see their leader act with honor, feel included, choose to follow, have access to information they can use, and are supported in their development, they will support their leader’s efforts to try novel approaches and find the best way forward.

Trustworthy leaders succeed in the marketplace because their trustworthiness provides them with two key competitive advantages: first, they benefit from the cooperation of employees with each other, across departments, and throughout the organization as a whole; and second they engender a deep, strong commitment among employees to the long-term success of the company, its mission, and its vision as expressed by the leader.

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:56 PM
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If it were just about leading, would you still want to be a leader?

Just About Leading

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

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

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

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

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

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20 Habits to Build Your Leadership On Extreme Ownership

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Leadership as Provocative Competence

Yes to the Mess


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

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

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

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

Barrett breaks provocative competence down into five component parts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:59 PM
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Heroic Leaders and Passive Followers

Heroic Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you acting over-responsibly?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:02 PM
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Influencing Up

Influencing Up

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

Often we get in our own way when trying to influence. In Influencing Up, authors Allan Cohen and David Bradford we have to overcome these barriers:

  • The assumptions you hold about how hard to push
  • An unwillingness to raise a tough issue or have a difficult conversation with your boss
  • A combative tone that provokes the exact reactions you dislike
  • Fear of being turned down
  • Inability to let go of your own concerns long enough to remember to give something valuable to get cooperation
  • Any problems you might have dealing with authority

Cohn and Bradford deal with all of these issues. Beside any self-examination you will need to do, you will need courage to deal with two influencing up issues:

First, the impact of large power differentials. Obviously, the greater the power differential between you and the powerful person, the more difficult influence becomes.

Unfortunately, this kind of large power gap tends to produce dysfunctional behavior for people on both sides of the equation. Relatively high-power people tend to overvalue their own contributions and undervalue others’, whereas those with less authority tend to overestimate higher-level individuals’ power and underestimate their own.

Second, becoming a partner with high-powered people. Partner does not necessarily mean equals. It’s a matter of “joining with” not just “reporting to” and taking responsibility for developing the partnership. To do that you need a clear understanding of your boss’s world.

Characteristics of this partnership are:

  • both partners are committed to the organizational goals and the success of the other,
  • you must be motivated by the desire to help and not just personal advancement,
  • you need to be proactive (a leader in your own right),
  • both partners must be honest and transparent, and free to offer honest feedback giving each other the benefit of the doubt,
  • and you must accept the differences between you and your partner.

Just as leaders should ask themselves, “Why am I doing that?” so should junior partners ask themselves, “Why aren’t I doing that?” Not all bosses of course, are interested in the idea of influencing up and this is one area where the partnering mind-set really helps.

You need to carefully examine the interests, power, knowledge, and agendas of every relevant individual, group, or organizational stakeholder—and determine who influences others. Although you might not be able to sway a powerful person, he or she might respond to someone else’s argument. Who has those connections? This complete analysis is critical for selling ideas or proposals, gaining backing for projects, neutralizing resistance, or otherwise making a difference.

Building on the model they first presented in their book Influence Without Authority, Cohen and Bradford deal with challenges of power differentials and partnering and how to overcome them in a step-by-step, straightforward way.

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:42 AM
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Success is Oftentimes Wrongly Associated with External Gains

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:17 PM
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Love Works

Love Works

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

Joel Manby says that Love Works, but it’s hard. On the other hand, easy doesn’t get it done. It’s easier to “hit the numbers” than to worry about how our decisions impact the lives of others. It’s easier to fire someone than to work with them. But easier doesn’t build trust, it doesn’t grow and nurture a strong culture that brings out the best in people, and it doesn’t build a lasting, healthy organization that attracts the very best and stands the test of time.

Leading with love is a higher testament to one’s leadership acumen than simply taking the well-trodden path toward fear-based, power-hungry management. Leading with love demands commitment, strong will, and patience, but the results are second to none.

Manby says love is an action and not a feeling. He identifies seven behaviors: to be patient, kind, trusting, unselfish, truthful, forgiving, and dedicated. These are the bottom-line behaviors for leading with love.

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

How will you lead?

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Leading with Love Up Down Sideways

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What’s Wrong with Leadership Training Today?

Wrong with Leadership Training

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 capacity for contextual intelligence as for emotional intelligence.” Absolutely.

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

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Hard Times for Leaders Good Followers Make the Best Leaders

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:19 PM
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What Matters Now

What Matters Now

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

It would be wrong to assume that hierarchies and managers will go away. But we need to rethink how we operate within our organizations.

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

Values Matter Now.

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

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

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

Innovation Matters Now.

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

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

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

Adaptability Matters Now.

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

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

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

Passion Matters Now.

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

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

Ideology Matters Now.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Inner World of the Leader

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

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

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

Kets de Vries is a clinical professor of leadership development at INSEAD. His background in economics, management, and psychoanalysis, adds a great deal of richness and context to the study of leadership. Over the last three years Jossey-Bass has published a mostly revised and updated collection of his rather large body of thoughtful-provoking writing in this series of three books.

The opinion of one of the power holders in the [Harvard Business School] Organizational Behavior department was that I would never write anything. That particular person must have had a very good understanding of human behavior. One of the small pleasures of life is doing something people say you will never do. I believe that [Reflections on Character and Leadership] is my twenty-ninth book. I have always thought that academics are masters in character assassination.

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

Every leader needs someone who is willing to speak out and tell the leader how it is in order to create checks and balances—the counterweight of the person in power. Without such people leaders easily derail and organizations can become paralyzed by fear, mistrust and insecurity. He explains how leaders construct organizations that are great places to work.

The era of the highly structured organization is past….Clearly, some executives may not be able to deal with the ambiguities that this new kind of networking, boundary-less organization entails—the external boundaries in an organization can be removed fairly easily, but the boundaries inside people’s heads are more difficult to dissolve. Weaning some leaders away from their need for authority, structures, and controls may take considerable time and effort. In the long run, however, it will be well worth it. Eventually, they will enjoy their work more, and be more effective.

Reflections on Leadership and Career Development
Kets de Vries says that narcissism is an inescapable aspect of human nature—and leadership. It has had a generally bad press. “There is such a thing as a healthy dose and it lies somewhere on a wide spectrum that ranges from grandiosity and showmanship to denigration and coldness.” He begins Reflections on Leadership and Career Development by discussing narcissism and leadership.

Leadership can be pathologically destructive or intensely inspirational. But what is it about the leaders themselves that causes them to be one or the other? I believe the answer lies in the degree of narcissism in the personality of the leader in question.

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

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

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

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

He advocates the building of an organization wide coaching culture ad discuss how it can be implemented.

There are several basic things that any leader has to do: provide focus, understand what makes their people tick, set an example, and make things happen. However, the distinguishing factor between mediocre and great leadership is always the same: the creation of meaning….When it comes down to it, people are searching for meaning.

This series of books cannot be read quickly. Each book in the series seeks to understand leaders, human nature and its vicissitudes. They need to be reflected on. They will challenge your thinking, widen your perspective and inspire you to do better.

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Whos the King What It Takes to Lead