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Timeless Leadership Lessons I Learned from My First Job as a Swim Instructor

My First Job as a Swim Instructor

THERE’S something about our first jobs that stick with us. They teach us things we didn’t expect to learn and shape the person we become later in our professional lives. This phenomenon happens even when that first job has absolutely nothing to do with the career you ultimately end up pursuing, which is exactly what happened to me.

I was 14 when I first started as a lifeguard and swim instructor at my hometown pool in Canton, Connecticut. I got the position despite an awkward first interview: an inexperienced teenager – I simply wasn’t prepared for the questions they asked. What would you say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Where do you see yourself in five years?

I didn’t know. But they gave me the job anyway. And in the months that followed, I learned some important lessons that guide me in my work life even to this day as a healthcare executive. Here are three of the most important ones:

Lesson 1: Don’t Force It

As a swim instructor, I quickly learned that moving at the student’s pace - moving into the pool one step at a time, taking small steps - or strokes - instead of telling them to jump into the deep end right off the bat, or worse yet forcing them into the water when they were not ready, creates much better results. Using the baby step approach develops students who are comfortable and who, instead of being so paralyzed with fear that they can’t move, feel ready to learn. Breaking lessons into smaller, more manageable goals - like reaching underwater for the penny on the stairs first and then submerging their heads in the shallow end second - actually increased my students’ rates of improvement because they could move to the next level with confidence.

While each staff member may learn at a different pace, slow and steady progression in their individual roles is beneficial to all. Creating manageable and immediate goals - all of which may lead to the accomplishment of a larger goal - makes for a confident worker who enjoys learning new things and growing and tends to stay in their job or at the company longer.

Lesson 2: Making it Fun Makes a Difference

In swimming class, making lessons fun is easy: “Let’s see who can splash the most water out of the pool by kicking their legs as straight as possible!” almost always works with kids. And while they are busy having fun, they’re also improving an essential skill for their swimming.

Not everything can be fun all the time – we call it work for a reason – but finding ways to turn trainings into games, holding a competition for the best way to improve a work process, or giving monthly employee of the month awards are all ways to reward staff for a job well done. No matter our age, we all enjoy playing, and making training enjoyable can create professionals who have perfected skills that will be essential for more serious situations.

Lesson 3: Persistence Pays Off

Anyone who has ever coached or taught knows the incredible satisfaction that comes from watching a student or athlete achieve a goal. As a swim instructor, watching the child who was scared to even step into the shallow end of the pool finally jump off the diving board was as rewarding for me as it was for the swimmer.

One of my greatest managerial joys is seeing a LinkedIn posting about a new position or reading a healthcare publication article about some new company’s success and realizing that I am reading about one of my former employees. Our greatest success as managers is seeing those we mentored succeed themselves.

Today, if you visit my office in Boston, you’ll see a framed copy of The New Yorker magazine, from August 21, 1954, hanging on the wall. The title reads “Summer Camp Swimming Lessons” by Abe Birnbaum. On the cover: the illustration of a young woman sitting on the side of the pool, near the deep end, teaching the arm stroke to seven small children as they hang tightly onto a safety rope strung across the middle of the pool. One child hasn’t made his way into the water yet. Another has his toes dipped in the shallow end, hesitatingly making his way in. That could have just as easily been a drawing of me at my first job during that Connecticut summer: red shirt, one kid out of the pool, and all.

A lot has changed in the world of work since that summer, but the leadership lessons I learned giving swim classes at the pool in 1977 are as timeless as that vintage magazine cover.

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Leading Forum
Deb Schoenthaler is the Executive Director of Physician Performance LLC, an organization of 2,900 physicians that participates in value-based contracts through the Beth Israel Lahey Health Performance Network. Their mission is to give members a strong voice in how care is delivered, promoting new and innovative ways to advance the practice of medicine in New England. Our members find the benefits of belonging to a world-renowned provider network while maintaining autonomy and individuality within their own practices.

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David Magill Teaching Drucker on Teaching

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:10 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development


Three Secrets to Building Strong Leaders

Building Strong Leaders

TOO many leaders are stuck in mediocrity. A Ketchum study found that only 23% of the 25,000 surveyed believe their leaders are leading well. Only 31% believe leaders communicate well. Only 17% have confidence that leadership will improve in the upcoming year. And after the 2020-21 Covid response, I doubt those statistics have changed much.

Alain Hunkins, author of Cracking the Leadership Code, says “there is a path out of the muddle of mediocrity. Great leaders aren’t born—they’re made. If you are committed, you can learn and apply specific tools to improve how you lead.”

Great leaders share these three fundamental qualities: connection, communication, and collaboration.

Leadership Code


The foundation of connection is empathy. Connection builds trust, insight, engagement, and results. So why don’t we see more of it? One reason is we simply don’t practice it. “It needs to be exercised regularly to get stronger. If you don’t use it, it atrophies.”

Another reason is a rigid, right-wrong mindset. A right-wrong mindset can lead to controlling behavior. Needing to be right, disconnect you from others. “Clinging to a need to be right closes you off to the perspective and experience of others. You don’t listen—you fake listen.”

A third reason is we fear empathy will open up an emotional can-of-worms. Not to mention the fear that expressing vulnerability will be taken advantage of.

Fourth, we are too impatient to take the time to be empathetic. It’s true. Empathy takes time. “Leader with a bias for action may be operating with the unconscious belief that they don’t have time to offer empathy. But this belief has an unintended impact: Making those around them feel less valued and understood. When people feel devalued, their motivation plummets. These lead to declines in performance. Ultimately, results suffer.”

There is also what is called the hot-cold empathy gap. That is, how our emotional state affects our ability to relate to someone else in an opposite emotional state. If I’m calm, it is difficult to relate to someone experiencing anger.

And finally, the higher we go in an organization, the disconnected we become from those under us.

Leading isn’t an abstract idea that exists between you and somebody else or a group of people. It’s a connection that’s built through a genuine relationship.

Being perpetually alert to what you do and say is one of the most important habits for leaders to cultivate.


We would all agree that communication is critical to what we do, and we assume it is happening. We take it for granted. And we shouldn’t.

There are three major obstacles to communication. The typical problem is that we are not on the same page. What I say is not what you hear. I know what I mean but do you. It’s called projection bias when we assume others know what we are thinking. Better to assume that what we mean is not what they understand and clarify.

Those you are communicating with need context. You know why what you are saying is important and what needs to be done about it. When communicating, others need to know the background of your thinking. They need to know why you are saying what you are saying so they can act appropriately.

Another common issue is overload. We are overwhelmed with information. “People have plenty of other messages competing for their precious brain cells. They’re not going to focus on you just because you want them to. People don’t want more information—they want insight.”

Hunkins says to improve your communication you need to communicate with the end in mind, have a central message, create checks for understanding, own and fix communication breakdowns, make the implicit explicit, and master the medium—raise your communication game.”


To lead, you need the abilities and experience of everyone in the room. Collaboration takes your effectiveness to a whole new level. It is an increasingly important skill to have in our digital age.

“Although you can’t motivate anyone else, you can design the conditions in which they motivate themselves. You can use your understanding of human needs and the employee experience to lead a team of joyful, engaged, and high-performing people.” Hunkins covers these topics well and also the need to simplify so that you don’t get in your team’s way.

All three of these qualities are more challenging for the leader in this digital age. Organizations are increasingly made up of people who do not share common cultural backgrounds. These differences manifest themselves in the way people communicate and think. It becomes a challenge when building trust and collaboration.

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11 Elements Needed to Achieve Collaboration You Cant Not Communicate

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:05 AM
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What Your Organization Really Needs from You: Influence and Impact

Influence and Impact

LEADERS in today’s multinational, matrixed, diverse business world have impact through their ability to influence others. In many organizations, authority-based leadership is waning. Success is all about getting others to care about what you care about. The most effective leaders get their teams, their colleagues, and their suppliers to emphasize their priorities. People listen to what you have to say, and follow you, because they want to, not because they have to. When you have that kind of influence with others, the results begin to speak for themselves. In other words, you have impact on the organization.

Why do some leaders “have a seat at the table,” and some feel they are struggling to bring others along? Why are some leaders able to influence in one role, but in another role, discover they aren’t having the influence they should? The solution is far from magical. For a large majority of leaders, the struggle to have influence and impact comes from things that you can manage and change. If you approach this situation with a growth mindset, you can build or rebuild that influence. In my new book, Influence and Impact: Discover and Excel at What Your Organization Needs From You The Most, written with George Bradt, we provide the tools every leader needs to grow and develop into the leader that others want to follow.

Through my work with business leaders from CEOs to first-line managers, it has become clear that many people with strong technical prowess and powerful business acumen have unintentionally misunderstood an unwritten but essential aspect of their job. When organizations send clients to me for executive coaching, the work usually focuses on one of two things: How the leader thinks about their job, and how they do that job. Put simply, many leaders are not focused on two essential elements of their job.

First, they are not completely focused on the priorities their organization needs from them. They may be doing the job mostly right, or they may be doing what their job description says. But many times, they are focused partly on what they know, what they wish, or what is comfortable, rather than what is needed.

Tommy had risen to become the leader of a 1500-person business unit spanning four continents. He knew the economics of his business and was able convert his skills into practical technology and process solutions. But like many people, his strengths were also his weaknesses. Because Tommy understood the business in such depth, he often knew the answers well before his team did. As a result, he would identify the solution, inform others, and tell them to execute. Tommy felt overworked and underappreciated. His team felt undervalued, under-challenged, and demoralized. Through the coaching work we did, Tommy realized that he was avoiding the more complex and ambiguous aspects of his work where he had less confidence. As a result, Tommy was able to step back and let his team sort out operational problems without his involvement. Tommy’s boss saw that Tommy had freed up time and refocused his energies on what the manager needed from him, and told him, “I’ve been waiting for you to figure this out.”

Second, leaders are doing the right things, but in a way that is not aligned with the style, attitudes and mores of their organization; in other words, the organizational culture. For example, they are decisive when they need to be collaborative. They are direct and blunt when they need to be tactful and patient. Or, they push for autonomy when their manager wants engagement. These are just a few examples.

Fortunately, leaders can enhance their influence and impact by identifying and consistently focusing on the mission critical parts of their role and the essential aspects of the culture. The steps to building your influence are clear:

  1. Start by learning about yourself – your strengths, your values, your preferences.
  2. Learn about what your job really is - by having conversations with stakeholders (including your manager) and observing yourself, your manager, and your colleagues carefully.
  3. Understand the culture of your organization – by listening, observing, and reflecting on your actions and attitudes relative to others.
  4. Write out your working job description – the one that others need from you, not what you think it is.
  5. Decide if you want to commit to that job. If you do, then make a plan to adjust to what is really expected. If you do not, consider what alternatives there may be, in your organization or somewhere else.

Every leader can identify the parts of their role that meet the needs of their manager, their colleagues, and their business. Every leader can understand the culture, and decide if it is a fit for them, or if they can change a few aspects of their style to adapt. All it takes is a willingness to confront the reality of the situation and grow as a leader.

This is the key to professional success in organizations: Doing the job that is needed by the organization, in the way that is needed by the culture, consistently and reliably. Developing a deliberate focus, delivered in a manner that is aligned with the style and manner of your organization, invariably results in increased influence with others, a willingness to follow, and a larger impact on the organization and its mission.

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Leading Forum
This post was adapted from Influence and Impact: Discover and Excel at What Your Organization Needs From You The Most by Bill Berman and George Bradt. Bill Berman is an executive coach with experience as a psychologist, senior line manager, and organizational consultant. Since founding Berman Leadership Development in 2005, he has been a trusted advisor to general managers and C-suite executives across multiple industries. Bill began his career as a licensed psychologist and academic, started a software company, and has written and spoken extensively on a range of topics in psychology, coaching and behavior change. For more information, please visit https://bermanleadership.com and follow the author on Twitter.

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Peak Leadership Fitness Adversaries into Allies

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:45 AM
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Never Enough … Excellence, Agility, and Meaning

Never Enough

THE IDEA behind Never Enough isn’t perfection or even a state of dissatisfaction. It’s about realizing that the goal is not to get by but to “always look for more ways to make an impact.”

Former Commanding Officer of Seal Team Two and White House Fellow serving with both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Mike Hayes, says Never Enough is about aiming for excellence, agility, and meaning in everything we do. Adopting this mindset can “drive us all to lead more complete, more rewarding lives, each making the world a better place in our own unique way.” Never enough means realizing our full potential—intentionally.

On an individual level, we must never look to be Never Excellent Enough and build our own capabilities in terms of knowledge and capacity, strength and control, and accountability and orientation.

On a team and organizational level, we must aim to be Never Agile Enough and understand how to shift between roles to best serve our missions, how to put systems in place that lead to superior decision-making, and how to keep our teams as flexible and responsive as possible.

On an impact level, we must act to be Never Meaningful Enough, knowing what will make the biggest difference for the people e in our lives and in our communities, and potentially on an even larger scale.

Never Excellent Enough

Never excellent enough begins with knowing yourself and then having the will and the drive to do the work and stretch yourself. “The hungriest people will, in fact, do whatever it takes, and they’ll get better and better along the way.” It’s never easy. The discomfort lets you know you are on the right path.

The way to get better over time is to know where we aren’t good enough, what aspects of our life are not satisfying enough, which goals we’re chasing aren’t the right ones.

Our reactions are critical. Hayes says he’ll take control over raw intelligence. “The smartest SEAL isn’t the one with the greatest raw intelligence. It’s the one who has the best and quickest reaction to a problem. You want both—intelligence and control—but in the stressful moments, control matters, a lot.”

In stressful circumstances, as leaders, we need “to be the person to pull others up, set the right tone, and keep everyone else on track.” Here’s the bottom line:

We can’t—and shouldn’t—erase emotions from our lives. We can’t be good partners, friends, spouses, and parents without emotion, without feelings, without vulnerability and genuine honesty. But we also can’t be effective performers if we aren’t able to compartmentalize, to put those feelings aside when they’re not helpful to the situation at hand.

Of course, the key to never enough excellence is humility. It means putting others first in all things.

I needed to be humble enough to let others take the lead when their skills were the ones we most needed in the moment, and confident enough that I didn’t need to prove my worth and ultimately hurt the mission by trying to do what might be better handled by someone else.

Hayes adds, “you’re not going to be the most productive performer unless you have the right attitude about the people around you.”

And this goes when there is a need to discipline too. Discipline is not about you, “it’s about making people understand where they fell short, helping them to change their actions in the future, and altering their perspective.” And remember this:

If someone is going to stay on the team, you make them better. If they need to leave, you let them leave with dignity and, in doing so, make them an ally in the future.

Never Agile Enough

Agility is about awareness and being flexible enough to do what needs to be done to get the desired outcome. That requires that you can be both a leader and a follower. Hayes calls it “dynamic subordination.” He says, “In an effective team, we must seamlessly move forward and back depending on the demands of the situation and the skills of the people around us. We don’t get locked into a particular job, a particular task, or a particular pattern: we maintain the agility to be whatever we need to be under the circumstances.”

Dynamic subordination also has a flip side. When you are in a position to make the lives of the people around you better, step up. Always be ready to do what you can do.

What plays into agility is knowing how to think. Have a process for decision-making that includes getting the broadest range of thought that you can.

The concrete knowledge you need is the easy part—anyone can learn that. But the details don’t matter if you don’t have the right process. And if you do have the right process, you can go anywhere. It’s why strong leaders are able to jump from one industry to another, one organization to another.

Some rules are made to be followed, and some are to be broken. Agility is knowing when to do which. Hayes asks everyone to think on two levels: run, and renovate. “You need to get the job done in the moment (‘run’) but you also need to figure out what might need to change to enable the greatest amount of long-term success (‘renovate’).” But run and renovate is about more than just making changes it should become part of everything you do. “When you push a teammate—when you challenge something they’ve done or try to initiate a hard conversation—you need to be thinking about how you’re trying to affect them in the moment (‘run’) and how you’re trying to shape their future (‘renovate’).”

Never Meaningful Enough

We all want to have meaning in what we do and impact the lives of those around us. It begins by having a belief system in place. Believe in something and start there. “The hard work is figuring out what the world needs and how it intersects with what feels most rewarding to you. Figure that out, and actually getting it done becomes the easy part.”

Having an impact on others means getting to know others and having deep conversations. Hayes lives by three principles in this regard: “to be intrusive in people’s lives, to be a do-er rather than a be-er, and to push to have real impact on those around me.” That doesn’t mean being rude or overstepping other people’s boundaries, but “we have to be willing to intrude, to ask the hard questions and have the hard conversations—or we’re not really making a difference.”

Being a do-er for others “means actually doing concrete things that make a difference in our friends’ lives, often at a cost to ourselves.” And impacting the lives of others gives meaning to our own lives as well.

Never enough means it’s never over.

I think we can simultaneously recognize how much we accomplish each day and also understand that our work is never done. There is always growth possible for each of us, ways we can push ourselves to be more excellent, more agile, and infuse our day-to-day with more meaning. There are always more people whose lives we can touch, more people we can lift up and inspire to get better and reach greater heights.

Never Enough is an outstanding book. There is so much in the way of reliable, balanced advice. His wide-ranging experience—as a Navy SEAL, a White House Fellow, Chief of Staff and COO at Bridgewater Associates, and Head of Strategic Operations at Cognizant Technologies, among other roles—made his insights even richer.

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Overcome Embrace the Suck

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:14 AM
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Unleashing the Potential of Those You Lead


WHAT happens after you show up as a leader? Does the performance and potential of the people around you improve? In other words, it’s not about you.

In Unleashed, Frances Frei and Anne Morriss want to change the conversation around leadership development from a focus on the leader to a focus on the people they are leading. And rightly so, because as they point out, the most important thing you can do as a leader is to build others up.

To that end, they want to define this aspect of leadership as “empowering other people as a result of your presence—and making sure that this impact endures even in your absence.” Their point being that leadership really isn’t about how amazing you are, but how effective you are at unleashing other people. It is in that context hat they want us to look at leadership.

I should note, however, that as a leader, self-improvement should be undertaken with a focus on the impact it has on those one is leading. The only way to improve the lives of those around us is to improve ourselves. It was Marie Curie that wrote, “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”

Most leadership literature has this focus—at least implied. And it should go without saying that if one is thinking about how to improve the performance and potential of those they lead, it will improve your leadership. They go hand in hand. The impact of your self-improvement on others is the yardstick of its value.

That said, there is an undue focus on the self in all of us. Although that affects everything we do, it’s not a leadership problem; it’s simply a human problem. But to be an effective leader, we must shift our focus off of ourselves. As the authors point out, “If you seek to lead, then your focus—be definition—shifts from elevating your self to protecting, developing, and enabling the people around you.” But often, we become focused on being seen as leaders than simply leading. Leadership makes us vulnerable as it exposes who we are.

That’s the irony of many of the tactics we use to protect ourselves as leaders. They can backfire and undermine the perceptions we’re working so hard to cultivate. In order to look like leaders, we end up behaving like smaller, two-dimensional versions for ourselves. We obscure the parts of ourselves that real leadership demands, cutting off access to our full humanity. In the choice to insulate ourselves from the judgment of others, we disconnect from leadership’s core mandate to make those very same people better.

Over and over again, you just can’t get away from the fact that effective leadership is built on humility.

The authors are emphasizing what they call empowerment leadership. And this approach takes you outside yourself and creates a full-time job out of understanding and showing compassion and concern for those you lead.

Only when you can imagine a better version of someone can you play a role in helping to unleash them. If you don’t have confidence in someone’s growth potential, then you can do many things with that person, but leading isn’t one of them. You can oversee, supervise, govern, persuade, and endure them. You can get through the day and instruct then to do things.

This kind of approach is too often what we see being practiced and called “leadership.” Real leadership leads into the potential of others.

To illustrate their point, they created the Rings of Empowerment Leadership. At the core is trust. “Trust creates the conditions for others to be guided by you.” They explain, once you build trust, you then “create a context where people around you can thrive.” And to create a context where teams thrive requires that you champion the differences of each member.

Rings of Empowerment Leadership

These first three competencies require that you be present for the action and limiting your influence. “The most successful leaders are influencing people far beyond their direct reach and are intensely aware that success depends on what happens in their absence. Which brings us to the outer rings of our model: strategy and culture.”

From here, Frei and Morriss take us through each ring to develop the competencies and the mindset to become more empowering leaders.

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Might Be All About You Lift

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:33 PM
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10 Signs Your Leadership Might Be All About You

Your Leadership Might Be All About You

LEADERSHIP is never about me, but it is all too easy to make it about me. Frances Frei and Anne Morriss have written Unleashed to help us fix our perspective on unleashing the potential of those we lead.

They have listed ten warning signs that you might be getting in your own way as a leader (or any other relationship for that matter):

  1. What other people experience rarely occurs to you. Be curious about what other people are thinking, feeling, and doing.
  2. You don’t ask very many questions. If you don’t feel the impulse to ask other people questions, it’s a good sign you are probably stuck in your own head.
  3. The most interesting thing about other people is what they think of you. People are more than the sum total of what they think about you. They have other thoughts and ideas. Check them out.
  4. You’re constantly updating a catalogue of your own weaknesses, limitations, and imperfections. The insecurity that leads to being overly critical of yourself can only diminish your influence and weaken your relationships.
  5. Other people’s abilities bum you out. If unleashing other people’s potential is your goal, their strengths are your assets and the answer to your challenges.
  6. You’re constantly in crisis. If this is you, you need to pull back and see the bigger picture and begin leading and empowering others.
  7. You’re pessimistic about the future. Leadership is about leading yourself and others to a better place. If you’re pessimistic, you’ve got nowhere to go.
  8. Reality has become tedious. If you can’t see the possibilities, you’ve lost sight of the mission and your purpose. You need to go back and ask yourself “why do I want to lead?”
  9. Apathy and powerlessness are dominant emotions. Again, you need to pull back and begin to enlist the strengths of others.
  10. You’re the star of your own show. If this is the case, you are not “leading” for the right reasons. Instead, you need to try to start a fan club.

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It’s Not About You Unleashed

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:32 PM
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You’re It: The Call for Meta-Leadership

You’re It

A crisis demands a certain kind of leadership. But crisis leadership is not something you turn off and on. The ability to handle a crisis is something you develop long before a crisis hits, and people turn to you for guidance—before they declare, “You’re it!”

You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters Most by Leonard Marcus, Eric McNulty, Joseph M. Henderson, and Barry C. Dorn, details the mindset of successful crisis leadership. They call it Meta-Leadership. The following excerpt describes well exactly what the authors are advocating.

Meta-leadership is a strategy and practice method designed to expand the impact of your leadership. It is both conceptually rigorous and intensely practical. It guides being, thinking, and doing.

Meta-leaders build an intentionally wide and deep understanding of themselves and the situations they face. They are self-aware and curious. They develop a 360-degree, multidimensional perspective on the people around them and on their relationships with those people. See connections and interdependencies everywhere, meta-leaders foster this same consciousness in those who follow them. With this understanding of the surrounding complexities, they have a long reach as they lead followers to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.

Meta-leaders wield influence well beyond their formal authority. They not only understand the problem or opportunity itself: they grasp the different meaning it has for each of the main people involved. They weave together significant themes, clarifying overall purpose and values to keep an array of people aligned in synchronous motion. Those who follow meta-leaders discover that they are part of a mission and purpose larger than any one person or organization alone. It is inspiring to follow such a leader.

What they are describing requires quite a shift in thinking and behavior from much of the leadership we see today. It speaks to the question, why do you lead? It requires an outward mindset rather than the underlying motivation of leaders wishing to win points for themselves.

Crisis leadership is complex. Some responses may be linear in nature—a checklist of actions—but the meta-view is most often complex. An adaptive approach that acknowledges the evolving nature of situations and the ambiguity of the unknowns is fundamental to meta-view, inclusive leadership.

To illustrate this point, they present the Cone-in-the-Cube illustration.


Two groups of people are assigned the task of describing a shape inside an opaque cube. One group looks through peephole A on the side of the box. They see a triangle. The other looks through peephole B on the top of the box. They see a circle. The two groups fall into conflict about what is in the cube, and each substantiates the validity of its claims based on professed superior experience, values, intelligence, or power.

It is the job of the meta-leader to integrate both viewpoints and to help others see the big picture as well. A crisis compounds the problem because when people are fearful or in a state of panic, they become very rigid in their thinking. Meta-leaders need to respond to the emotion of the problem as well as the technical issues.

In a crisis, we are programmed to take a narrow view and become tightly focused. When a crisis hits, the first thing that happens is your higher-level thinking shuts down, and you descend into the basement. When this happens, “extraordinarily smart people can go to the basement, get stuck in the basement, and say or do the dumbest things, often to their later regret.” The trick is to learn what you can do to bring you up out of the basement and out of survival mode. It can be pausing, taking a deep breath, or something you do that prompts self-confidence.

To overcome that overwhelming feeling, it is good to pull back and provide some structure to the crisis and to guide your thinking and your response. The authors have developed a tool called the POP-DOC Loop.


Start at the top on the left side of the figure-8 and move counterclockwise: Perceive what is happening. Orient yourself to detect patterns and understand what they mean. Distinguish between what you think and what you know. Test for bias-driven blind spots. And then, based on the patterns and the probability of their recurrence, predict what is likely to happen next. These are the learning steps. They integrate the dimensions of the person and the situation.

As you cross over to the right side of the figure-8, now moving clockwise, you enter the action phases of the shape connectivity: Decide on a course of action. Operationalize the necessary organizational resources. Communicate information out to and bring information in from relevant stakeholders. Then, to access the impact of your decisions, operations, and communications, cycle back. Repeat the loop continuously.

The meta-leader’s role is to keep their eye on the big-picture, delegate, and allow others to do their job—to connect and coordinate all of those involved in the response. They practice the principle of “stay in your lane and help others succeed in theirs.”

Through your meta-leadership, you are seeking a wider perception and a deeper understanding of people, their experiences, and what affects them. That understanding—through connectivity—allows you to find patterns of behavior, reaction, and response. The intersection between what occurs in your surroundings and its impact on people becomes clearer. You take and guide actions in this broad human panorama.

You’re It is a playbook for crisis leadership to be sure, with many examples from various crisis situations. But more than that, it will develop you into a leader that can act when a crisis strikes. The principles found here are not only valuable in an organizational setting, but the mindset will help you personally to think through a crisis with clarity informed by a mind open to various perspectives on the situation.

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Think Outside the Building Just About Leading

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:03 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Problem Solving


Entrepreneurial Leadership

Entrepreneurial Leadership

YOU don’t have to be an entrepreneur to be an entrepreneurial leader. Entrepreneurial leadership is a mindset. It is a mindset that is even more critical in today’s unstable world and is the sine qua non of crisis leadership.

Joel Peterson has been around the block serving as a leader in various roles—CEO, CFO, founder, investor, entrepreneur—and is currently the chairman of JetBlue Airways and a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Throughout it all, he says, he’s been lost more than once. “I’ve relied on more than one rescuer. And I’ve occasionally had to turn back, to recalibrate, to reboot. But over time, I’ve learned what to do—and how to think—when things don’t go as planned. I’ve figured out how to survive betrayal, miscalculation, and just plain bad luck. I’ve learned both how to live with disappointment and how to keep the occasional success from changing my values.”

Through all of this, he’s “developed a framework—a set of principles, mindsets, and self-talk—that may help others on their quests.” He shares these in Entrepreneurial Leadership: The Art of Launching New Ventures, Inspiring Others, and Running Stuff.

Five Types of Leadership

To begin, he differentiates between five types of leadership: The Presider preside over the status quo and is a wise steward over the assets of the firm. The Manager excels at managing teams and delivering results without a limited focus on organizational strategy or trajectory. The Administrator manages process with predictability and efficiency. The Pure Entrepreneur starts things, innovates, and pilots with a mind to the future but often finds it difficult to scale or turn around a faltering organization. The Politician compromises, rationalizes, debates, and legislates and is skilled with the use of power.

Peterson encourages the development of Entrepreneurial Leadership because these leaders are able to shift from one of the above styles to another as needed. In addition, they “demonstrate a particular mindset and approach to problem-solving. They are change agents. They are intentional, staying true to their vision and agenda rather than only reacting to day-to-day turbulence.” They are stewards and see their work as transformative. “Their work is messy, largely intangible, and never-ending. Each day brings new problems and new decisions that present ambiguity and shades of gray.” This type of forward-thinking, nimble leadership is needed now more than ever.

Develop Your Leadership Around Four Activities

He organizes his thoughts, approaches, and mindsets around four categories—four essential basecamps on the way to the peak of entrepreneurial leadership:

1. Build Trust
2. Create a Mission
3. Secure a Team
4. Deliver Results

Entrepreneurial leaders build trust by knowing your core values—those things you spend your time, money, and mind share. And ask are any of these values getting in the way of your effectiveness. What guides your everyday actions? What is your personal operating system? “Next to knowing one’s core values, the most important attribute an entrepreneurial leader can possess is a predictable, reliable, and intentional personal operating system. If that operating system isn’t yet as reliable as the leader wants, refining it to that point should be a priority.”

To create a mission, you have to describe three things that are unique about you: what you do, How you do it, and who you are. Set Memorable, Aligned, and Doable goals. In his entrepreneurial leadership classes, Peterson always asks his students: “What are you solving for? What is your objective?”

Those who have clarity around winning tend to listen. They tend to compromise, to allow other parties to win, to sort out conflicts, and to arrive at solutions that allow everyone to move on. This means that entrepreneurial leaders are rarely perfectionists. Instead, they are practical problem solvers who keep their eyes on primary objectives. He most successful among them pursue strategies that are relentlessly aimed at achieving measurable results consistent with core values.

Entrepreneurial leaders secure a team by hiring great people for values consistency and demonstrating effective attitudes—likability, gratitude, joyfulness, humility, humor—in their interactions.

Delivering results is a matter of executing well on a number of challenges. Peterson covers ten of the most predictable: making decisions, selling, negotiating, raising capital, communicating, meetings, board relationships, overcoming adversity, surviving growth, and driving change.

If you’re making a lot of easy calls, you’ve failed to delegate. Most of the decisions you make personally should be close calls.

Sales is about figuring people out. Great salespeople don’t push products—they listen. They solve problems. And they do it all by providing solutions that are worth more to customers then they cost.

Interview potential sources of capital the way you would a new recruit. They bring more than just capital. The best bring ideas, contacts, and support. The worst bring headaches.

Entrepreneurial leaders communicate from a mind-set of participation, not control.

Unless it is clear why each person is vital to the meeting, don’t invite them.

Where love exists, change can be permanent.

A good entrepreneur will avoid the founder’s trap. In all likelihood, the company will grow beyond the capabilities of the founder and a founder should be prepared to turn it over to someone else at some point in time. Staying around past that point can ruin the company.

Being an entrepreneurial leader can be exciting work, but becoming one “demands personal growth—no matter where you start—and along the way, you’ll likely discover more about the person you’d like to be and the meaningful work you want to do.”

The world needs more entrepreneurial leaders to bring sustainable results.

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William Donaldson 36 Lessons from Coach Bill Campbell

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:24 AM
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The 3 Types of Humility That Impact Your Leadership

3 Types of Humility

IN 2016, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria addressed the graduating class and spoke of three H’s: Hope, Humility, and Honor. These three qualities are reflected in leaders who make a difference.

In speaking about hope, he turned to the example of explorer Ernest Shackleton, who, in a seemingly hopeless situation, “continued not only to remain optimistic himself, but he continually instilled hope in his crewmates. He refused to let them give in to the despair that logic would lead them to feel. He did not allow them to give up, either emotionally or physically.”

He said we should think of honor as a verb. It’s an action. It’s about “making and keeping commitments.”

What stood out for me was the way he broke down humility into three types: Intellectual, Moral, and Personal. It gives one a multi-faceted picture of humility and how we might cultivate this quality more fully in our lives.

Intellectual humility is the virtue of knowing that no matter how smart you think you are, you can always learn something from other people. Harvard Business School is an ideal training ground for intellectual humility: While all of you are extraordinarily smart, you have now spent two years in classes where you have inevitably learned from someone else in the room—and this is an attitude you should continue to exhibit throughout your careers.

Moral humility is the awareness that no matter how self-assured you are about your moral compass, you are vulnerable, under stress or in certain contexts, to losing your way. Remember the Milgram experiments you studied in your Leadership and Accountability class. Although we would like to believe that we are the one who would be able to resist an authority figure’s instructions to deliver electrical shocks to innocent people—remind yourself that most people, just like us, with an equal commitment to decency, succumbed in this situation. It’s a lesson you should keep in mind, in your professional and personal lives.

Personal humility is knowing that it is so much better to let others talk about your accomplishments than to talk about them yourself.

Personal humility is becoming all-too-rare, as social media breeds an attitude of "look at me!" Now, I have nothing against posting photos of a joyous occasion like today, but it’s important to keep in mind that even when you’re not taking selfies, people are watching. You will all become leaders of teams and organizations, and as you assume these roles, people will be watching closely for signs of hubris and self-importance. This is never an attractive quality. Consider how frequently the tabloids are filled with stories about some self-entitled person shouting at someone those six words that can quickly ruin a reputation: “Don’t you know who I am?” So, no matter what you accomplish—and we all hope it will be a great deal—always remain humble.

How might we see our own lives differently from these three perspectives on humility?

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Humility Wide Net The Leadership Killer

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:11 PM
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The Leader's Greatest Return

Leaders Greatest Return

IF YOU want to make a difference in the world, go further, faster by developing other leaders. Your efforts are magnified exponentially by the investment you make in others.

Of course, we talk about developing more leaders, but if we actually made it a priority, we would have more leaders. One issue leaders have always faced is the ability to identify potential leadership in the raw. It can be a bit counterintuitive. John Maxwell addresses these issues and more in The Leader’s Greatest Return.

To help make this more practical and intentional, Maxwell has laid out a ten-step process for developing leaders.

1. Identifying Leaders: Find them so you can develop them.

You need to know what you are looking for. What does a potential leader look like? Maxwell offers six As to guide us: Assessment of Needs (what do you need?), Assets on Hand (people within), Assets not on hand (people outside), Attitude, Ability, and Accomplishments.

You’re looking for attitude before aptitude. Always begin with attitude.

Good character is what holds together all the positive attitude traits I’ve mentioned—willingness to serve, selflessness, empathy, growth, and sacrifice. Character keeps everything secure. Without it, things can break down fast. Character is about managing your life well, so you can lead others well.

2. Attracting Leaders: Invite them to the leadership table.

Leaders want to be around leaders. “Having a leadership table means creating a place in your organization or on your team where people have a place to learn, an opportunity to practice leadership with its successes and failures, and a chance to shine.”

Leaders “see the future leader within the person, and help that leader emerge.” Inviting potential leaders to the table gives them a chance to practice leadership.

As a learner there’s no substitute for participating and having access to people who know what they’re doing, can direct you, and give you feedback. That requires proximity.

Leadership is more caught than taught. That’s why one of the best ways for potential leaders to learn how leaders think, problem-solve, and act is to spend time with them at the table.

3. Understanding Leaders: Connect with them before you lead them.

Understand them. Learn their perspective.

Before you lead and develop people, you need to connect with them. You need to find common ground with potential leaders, which is less about ability and more a function of attitude. They commit to you and follow when they feel understood.

Maxwell lists ten actions to create that understanding: “Value them, let them know you need them, include them in your journey, adopt a teachable spirit, ask questions, listen well and often, seek to know their perspective, give credit to those who help you, express gratitude to those who help you, and replace me with we.” What Maxwell is talking about is humility.

4. Motivating Leaders: Encourage them to give their best.

Don’t motivate. Inspire.

I try to inspire people and help them find their own motivations. That means I must first find my own motivations and model the behavior I want to see in the people I lead. Good leaders inspire others only to the extent that they inspire themselves.

5. Equipping Leaders: Train them to be great at their job.

Great leaders sponsor their potential leaders. “They position them and mentor them.” Sponsoring potential leaders is where you begin to see the return on your time and investment.

Work yourself out of a job. Success doesn’t come from protecting what you have. It comes from equipping others to replace you so that you can move onto bigger and better things. When you become an equipping leader and teach potential leaders how to be great at their job, everybody rises.

6. Empowering Leaders: Release them to reach their potential.

Give authority away. “Only secure leaders give power to others.”

The main limitation most people have on their lives is their low expectations of themselves. Most people are unaware of the possibilities that lie within them. Good leaders introduce the people they lead to those wonderful possibilities.

7. Positioning Leaders: Team them up to multiply their impact.

Bring your leaders together to develop a team of leaders. Maxwell explains the seven types of leaders to you want to invite to your leadership team.

Teams of leaders are powerful. But they are difficult to create. Why? Leaders are hard to gather. And it can be a challenge to get them to work together. They all have their own ideas, and they would usually rather gather a team than be on one.

8. Mentoring Leaders: Coach them to the next level.

Leaders have a responsibility to mentor others. For mentoring to work, it becomes a two-way street. As mentors, we should both teach and learn.

The leader being mentored should move up to a higher level of leadership. The ultimate step in mentoring ends with the leader being mentored takin the baton from his mentor and surpassing him.

9. Reproducing Leaders: Show them how to develop leaders.

“The only thing limiting the future of any organization is the number of good leaders it develops.”

Maxwell says the kind of leaders you are trying to develop are what he calls 3-G leaders. “When I select leaders, I look for evidence of the three Gs. They have to be grounded, gifted, and growing. And as I develop them, I need to see them continue to develop in those areas to keep working with them.” Grounded as in possessing a foundation that makes them solid—humble, teachable, authentic, mature, and having integrity. Gifted in that they possess the strengths that can help them succeed in the service of others. And possessing a hunger and capacity to be developed—Growing.

When you begin developing leaders, the most important thing you can do is let them know what you’re thinking and why. Bring them to the table and let them in on high-level meetings and discussions so that they can learn how you and other top leaders think.

10. Compounding Leaders: Receive the Highest return of developing leaders.

Developing leaders benefits from what is called “accumulative advantage.” That is, a small initial advantage leads to a slightly bigger advantage that compounds over time to create a significant advantage. “That’s the return that comes from continually developing leaders. It compounds! And the longer you keep doing it, the greater your advantage becomes.” And you reap the compounding power of consistency.

You can’t develop everyone. “Compounding results from developing the top 20 percent. If I have ten people on my team, I incest 80 percent of my time and effort into my top two—my top 20 percent. I add value to them, so they can multiply value to others.” Those two can then develop the top 20 percent of those they influence and so on.

Developing leaders pays dividends to you, those you develop, and to everyone they influence. Developed leaders help you carry the load, leverage your resources, help you create momentum, expand your influence, ensure a future, develop others, and develop you.

It’s dangerous to think you’ve arrived as a leader. As someone once quipped, today’s peacocks are tomorrow’s feather dusters. If you want to keep leading, you need to keep growing, and few things stretch a leader like leading growing leaders.

The Leader’s Greatest Return is one of the most important books Maxwell has written. It brings together, in a meaningful whole, the culmination of over 50 years of experience leading and learning to lead. It provides a holistic view of leadership and applies the laws he has written about previously in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and other classic leadership books to the most meaningful function of leadership—developing more leaders.

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5 Levels of Leadership Sponsor Effect

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:30 PM
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Why You Should Sponsor Others

The Sponsor Effect

MUCH HAS been written about mentoring. Mentoring is a gift you give to others. And while mentoring can be of tremendous value to the person being guided, it is one-way.

Sponsoring is “all-in.” You have skin in the game. Sponsorship is a two-way, reciprocal investment where both the sponsor and the protégé are working for each other’s success.

It goes without saying that having a sponsor is a huge career plus, but here’s the startling fact, being a sponsor is just as important as finding one. Sylvia Ann Hewlett reports in her book, The Sponsor Effect, “Senior-level managers are 53 percent more likely to have received a promotion in the last two years, if they have a protégé.” In addition, “Entry-level professionals who have a protégé are 167 percent more likely to have received a stretch assignment than those who don’t.” And for those who were actually doing sponsorship right, the results were even better. The point is, become a sponsor. It’s good for you too!

The sponsor must devote serious attention to identifying top junior talent, developing their skills, scrutinizing their progress, and advocating on their behalf (or more practically stated, believing in them and using up precious political capital for them, advocating for them, and providing them with air cover to take the risks that success often demands). Protégés must deliver for their sponsor with stellar performance, rock-solid trustworthiness, and a differentiated skillset that adds value to the team and the organization, as well as to the individual sponsor.

Sponsorship In Action

Take note: “The right protégé will complement your leadership skills and style, provide honest feedback, make you feel that you have extra hours in the day, and enable your influence to persist even after you’ve moved on to your next role or opportunity.”

Seven Steps to Effective Sponsorship

Hewlett offers a playbook to do this right. Taking a chapter for each, she explains how to get started, and answers questions like how do you contain risk? And What tools and tactics work best. After all, “If you’re going to sponsor someone—linking their career to yours—they’re going to be walking around with your brand on their forehead.”

Step 1: Identify Potential Protégés
Know what to look for in the talent you’re considering sponsoring, starting with performance and loyalty. Performance is table stakes. “What you should be concerned about when evaluating a potential protégés is loyalty to you and the organization. The ideal number of protégés is three.

Step 2: Include Diverse Perspectives
Find those who are different from you—in their mindset and viewpoints, or in their gender, age, ethnicity, experience or background. “The point is that protégés can add the most value if they can provide something you lack.”

Step 3: Inspire for Performance and Loyalty
Ensure that your protégés’ values align with yours and use their ambitions to spur them forward.

Step 4: Instruct to Fill skills Gaps
Work with your protégés to develop where they need to grow, whether that’s in knowledge or soft skills

Step 5: Inspect your Prospects
Keep an eye on your protégés to ensure that they’re continuing to deliver in performance and also, most importantly, on the trustworthiness front.

Step 6: Instigate a Deal
Having inspired, instructed, and inspected, now make the ask, specifying in some detail the two-way flow of value.

Step 7: Invest in Three Ways
You now need to be “all in.” Endorse in noisy ways. Advocate behind closed doors. Provide air cover. Commit your political capital and your clout, while providing air cover so that your protégés can take risks. “Rule of thumb: the more significant the investment, the bigger the payout.”

The following example Hewlett shares highlights the value of sponsorship to help leadership groups break out of their shared biases and points of view that so often hold them back.

“In this business today, if you want to grow, you’ve got to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Lou Aversano, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather in New York (a division of WPP), told me. “You have to be willing to burn your lifeboats before someone burns them for you.” Yet industry veterans such as himself face a challenge that he calls “altitude.”

“We see things from a certain height, and we have biases based on our years of experience and established ways of getting things done,” he explains. So when Aversano took the helm in 2014 and started a strategic transformation, he reached out to millennial talent that didn’t look at things from this same altitude.

For that, Aversano tapped one of Ogilvy’s employee resource groups, the Young Professionals Network. He tasked its one hundred members (average age twenty-seven) to offer ideas about how to reinvent the business model that underpinned the agency. But the process wasn’t a suggestion box. Aversano and other senior leaders worked with these young executives closely for nearly two months, instructing them on the business challenges and offering feedback so they could grow their strategic chops and offer evolved, informed ideas.

[One of the results] was that Aversano identified a standout potential protégé: a young man named Ben Levine.

After working closely with Levine through the Young Professionals Network, Aversano was so impressed he put him on Ogilvy’s leadership team as a “senior advisor for transformation.” There, Levine has delivered transformative advice. For example, given his refreshing lack of altitude, Levine has been able to map out novel ways Ogilvy can engage with clients. He has also identified patterns that show which of the approaches are most likely to produce revenue and profit. “He charted the path to grow for us,” Aversano says.

Sponsorship requires an investment of time, but it has immediate value. You can begin to see the benefits very quickly. So, find some protégés today. The Sponsor Effect offers a formula to get it right.

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Best Mentor You Can Find is Up to You Leader as Coach

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:23 AM
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Peak Leadership Fitness: Elevating Your Leadership Game

Peak Leadership Fitness

ELEVATING your leadership game is a mindset. Your mindset drives your behavior and your influence on those you lead. You are in control of your mindset.

In Peak Leadership Fitness, author Timothy Tobin writes, “A leadership mindset is essentially the belief in yourself and your abilities as a leader. A negative leadership mindset is rooted in self-doubt, uncertainty, and lack of inquiry. A positive one, on the other hand, based on a realistic view of yourself, your potential, and how you view [the] potential of others.” This mindset can be developed with effort and curiosity.

Tobin has found that these four principles will help you on that journey:

Principle 1: You never know what you’re capable of until you take that first step. “Leadership is an extreme test of performance, stamina, and endurance. It requires sacrifice and training. It requires setting ambitious (stretch) goals for yourself. Progress—even when falling short of your goal—is a great way to calibrate your capabilities for your next effort.”

Principle 2: You must put in the effort. Nothing happens by chance. “When you put in the effort, your current strengths and expertise become a platform or you to build upon. As you build, you raise the bar for your capabilities, establishing a new standard for your performance.”

Principle 3: You learn more about yourself when times are tough. (In other words: Never give up.) “Adversity tends to be unpredictable, so you may not know when it will strike or what form it will take. The difference in whether you react or respond comes down to your preparation.”

Principle 4: What you consume matters. “Leaders won’t perform at their best if they do not focus on their development to development activities that advance their skills.”

Where to Begin?

Any leadership development journey begins with a baseline established through self-awareness. Tobin believes that a 360-degree assessment—a process through which feedback is solicited from peers, subordinates, superiors, and yourself—is the best place to begin. If enough people are included in the assessment, it can give you a good idea of those areas you need to begin focusing on and track your progress. Self-awareness is crucial to leadership success.

Begin by developing your leadership core, which encompasses four general areas:

Technical Skills: Knowledge about your domain, your business (including financial), and your industry.
Interpersonal Skills: Collaboration, conflict management, diversity and inclusion, and teaming.
Personal Skills: Executive presence, communication, and public speaking, project management, and time management.
Complex Process Skills: Strategic acumen, problem-solving, organizational change, decision making, and systems thinking.

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100X Leader Key to Effective Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:03 AM
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Five Foundational Truths of Youth Marketing (and Leadership)

Youth Marketing

WHO IS Gen Z? They are people born between 1996 and 2011. What is their frequency? Their generational voice is diverse, engaged, knowledgeable, pragmatic, collaborative. And while they share common values, they are very independent.

In The Gen Z Frequency, authors Gregg Witt and Derek Baird tackle this demographic which is projected to be the largest consumer demographic in history. The HRC Retail Advisory forecasts this generation to drive 40% of all US consumer spending, and yet it is one of the most challenging generational cohorts for brands to reach.

It is an important and comprehensive book for marketers, but there are some principles they share that have a much wider application, that I wanted to share. In the book, they list the five foundational truths of youth marketing (and leadership). Each truth is introduced by a well-chosen quote that is worth applying more broadly in a leadership context. They are:

Truth 1: Identity

Gone are the days when brand identity is built with a bullhorn. We all know that brand identity is now the sum of every consumer experience, but that doesn’t mean covering the spread of fragmented media with one brush stroke. In our opinion, context is just as important as content. It’s about brands boldly proclaiming a belief in why they exist in the first place, then proving it in ways that shape-shift within the medium and the context of media. In other words, prove that you are who you say you are in as many ways as you can. –Adam Wilson, 2018, Former director of brand marketing for Carhartt, North America

Truth 2: Trust

Trust? It’s everything. When it’s there, when it’s really there, that’s how a brand gets brought to life, protected and defended, grown and shared in the most authentic and powerful way possible. Trust takes belief, belief takes faith, and faith takes nurture and care. It takes more than a product, a promise, or a campaign. We work to earn trust in everything we say, everything we make and everything we do. Period. This is an important lesson I learned early on and continue to bring with me wherever I go. –Nicholas Tran, 2017, marketing executive and thought leader at global consumer electronics brand

Truth 3: Relevance

Staying relevant with Gen Z requires brands to stay on the pulse of everything happening in culture. And not just a gut check a few times a year…it requires a daily pulse of what this audience is talking about, feeling, and connecting with emotionally. From politics to pop culture, Gen Z admires brands who are willing to engage in timely conversations. –Michael Abata, 2018, cultural and consumer futurist

Truth 4: Possibility

Find a creator – a real creator, not a fake one – one that speaks to and inspires the audience you’re after. Partner with them for six months, a year or longer with a goal of becoming a true member of that creator’s community. Don’t tell them what to say – instead enable them – and through them, their community – to go places, do things, discover possibilities. Become part of that creator’s community, but let the creator chart the course, set the sails and choose the destination. You’re not buying media; you’re not running a campaign. You’re joining a community. Be respectful, but generous, but mostly keep your mouth shut. With the right match between creator, community and brands, the results will be amazing. –Jim Louderback, 2018, CEO Vidcon

Truth 5: Experience

A fundamental part… perhaps the fundamental part of humanity is to derive meaning from our existence, in the broader context of the universe. Gen Z is coming of age in a time period where we are constantly given digital reminders that we are not alone. An individual experience, recorded on a Snapchat or Instagram story, is almost immediately integrated into a broader ‘story’ pooled together by hashtag or geographic location. Technology has given us the tools to show us, in real-time, that we are one piece of a much larger puzzle. Brands need to become part of this larger puzzle and contribute to the overall experiences of this generation. –Sara Unger, 2018, Senior Vice President, Cultural Insights and Strategy, Civic Entertainment Group

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Generational Divide 8 Shifts Young Leaders Need to Make

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:52 AM
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Responsive Leadership: Needed Now More Than Ever

Responsive Leadership

THE leadership question is top of mind for many people here in the United States and throughout the world. The idea that leaders are trustworthy, honest, and can be relied on to operate in the best interest of the public, the employee, the student, the parishioner, or even the shareholder has been shattered. No matter what industry or organizational structure—business, politics, nonprofit, religious, entertainment or sports—examples abound where leaders have violated their trusted role and experienced a public downfall. As a result, confidence in our leaders and the institutions they lead has diminished, sometimes to the point of no return.

In these fast-paced, ever-changing, turbulent, and most stressful times, a major challenge that all leaders face is how to reduce skepticism and build greater trust and confidence in their role, their decisions, and in the organization they lead. In a recent LeadershipNow blog, Mark Sanborn wrote about six warning signs of why leaders fail: a shift in focus; poor communication; risk aversion; ethics slip; poor self-management; and lost love. Responsive Leadership can be an antidote to failing leadership and the foundation for building and sustaining organizational trust and confidence.

What is responsive leadership?

Responsive leadership focuses on the people—the humanity—within the organization to achieve organizational success. Often leaders are described by action words such as “results-oriented, innovative, driven and visionary”. Sometimes leaders are described by what they believe leaders do and how they approach their role, such as the systematic leader (leaders who use and rely on a set of methods and management tools) or the servant leader (a leadership philosophy in which the main role of the leader is as servant). Responsive leaders may employ these and other techniques, skills and actions all in service to a deep understanding and appreciation that the people within the organization underpin the organization in both triumph and crisis.

Over my many decades in leadership roles, reflecting on my own development as a leader, talking with colleagues, and reading and studying leadership, I have come to believe that there are four essential attributes that drive the responsive leader. My selection of these leadership attributes was affirmed during a conference of corporate directors when over dinner, a few of us had a discussion about the attributes of strong and effective leaders. I call these attributes “The Big Four.”

The Big 4 Leadership Attributes

Curiosity: The Desire to Continuously Learn

Curiosity will play a critical role in steering an organizational transformation, creating a new product, innovation or better understanding the competition. With a curious mind, the leader will seek knowledge and understanding from a variety of sources including outside experts, subordinates, peers, experts, and trusted advisors. By leading with curiosity, the leader will instill in the organization culture of continuous learning, a respect for and value for deeper understanding. A culture of continuous learning will bolster organizational creativity and innovation.

Empathy: The Ability to Feel and Appreciate Other Human Beings

The ability to understand feelings of others will keep us in touch with our own feelings as the organization tackles problems and finds solutions. Empathy is considered foundational to workplace cooperation and productive collaboration. In many work environments people must work with other people in order to be successful. Empathy will keep leaders tuned into the impact that the dramatic changes are having on the people around and in the organization. Regardless of leadership style, many executives would agree that empathy is a basic and very important quality of a successful leader. The ability to demonstrate empathy during crisis and challenging times will also help build trust and confidence in the leader and the decisions they are making.

Humility: A Sincere Regard for the Reality that We Cannot Go It Alone

Never underestimate the power of humility. Humility reinforces our curiosity in others and the world around us. Humility opens the door for a leader to have the courage to surround herself with the very best, people who are highly competent, and perhaps even smarter than herself. With humility, we know that we can learn from others, fully aware that “I” do not have all the answers. Employees will often respond most effectively to a “humble” leader. Another key ingredient to building trust and confidence in the leader and the organization.

Resilience: The Capacity to Recover, to Keep Going Forward in the Face of Adversity

All leaders face adversity at some point in their careers. Some of the hardest challenges to resilient leadership is rebounding from a setback. An important and necessary key for the resilient leader is “not to take it personally”, sometimes very hard to do. Recovering quickly from what you perceive as a failure and perhaps what everyone around you perceives as a failure can accelerate your own personal recovery process and as important, it can provide the ability for accelerated organizational growth and continued development.

I believe each of the Big Four attributes—curiosity, empathy, humility, and resilience—are integral to responsive leadership and responsive leaders are needed today more than ever. Do you incorporate the Big Four in your leadership? And is it effective?

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Leading Forum
Jackie Jenkins-Scott is the author of The 7 Secrets of Responsive Leadership. A nationally recognized leader with more than three decades of experience in executive leadership positions in public health, higher education and corporate and non-profit governance, she is widely acknowledged as a transformational leader, helping individuals and institutions achieve high performance and strategic results. She served for 21 years as the President of the Dimock Community Health Center and 12 years as the President of Wheelock College. In 2016, Jenkins-Scott founded JJS Advising, focusing on leadership development and organizational strategy. Her personal commitment to improve society extends to active community and civic engagement. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Century Bank and Trust Company, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, the Center for Community Change, and the National Board of Jumpstart. Jenkins-Scott serves as President of the Massachusetts Women's Forum, an affiliate of the International Women's Forum. She recently concluded Board terms on the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and the Tufts Health Plan.

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Making Sense of Leadership XLR8

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:37 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development


The Impact of Great and Terrible Leaders

Impact of Great and Terrible Leaders

MOST PEOPLE have been around a bad leader at some point. Someone who doesn’t communicate, sets impossible expectations, or is just difficult to be around. You’ve likely experienced the draining, exhausting feelings from having to work with or for that person. Hopefully, most people have also experienced a great leader. These are the people who inspire and motivate and encourage people to do their best work towards a common goal.

If you’ve experienced a bad leader and a great leader, you know the difference between the two can be night and day. But how do we turn those feelings into real action to develop great, future-ready leaders?

What Makes a Great Leader?

As part of my new book, The Future Leader, I interviewed more than 140 CEOs around the world and asked them each to define leadership. Their definitions were all over the board and included things like leaders being able to drive business success and reach goals to human skills like connecting with people and being humble. One of the main themes was that people believe a successful leader is someone who makes money and grows a business. The financial results definitely contribute to being a successful leader, but there is so much more that goes into becoming a truly great leader.

Consider these two definitions from CEOs I interviewed.

Judy Marks is the CEO of Otis Elevator and leads a team of over 70,000 employees around the world. According to Judy, “I think it’s really the ability to drive results, and I’ll leave that word results fairly generic. My role in terms of leadership is to set the vision and to share it. To create an environment where people can resonate not only with the mission but deliver it. To eliminate obstacles so my team can succeed.”

Hans Vestberg is the CEO of Verizon Communications, an American multinational telecommunications conglomerate with over 152,000 employees around the world. Hans believes leadership is: “Ensuring that people have everything they need to achieve the missions of an organization. That’s it. All else is footnotes.”

Which one most resonates with you and why?

First and foremost, great leaders care about their people. They are willing to go the extra mile to serve and get the job done. A great leader knows that a company isn’t really successful if its numbers improve but its people aren’t happy. Leaders help shape the world and have a profound impact on their employees’ lives. If you’ve had the chance to work for a great leader, you know those lasting feelings: a great leader inspires you to be better, mentors you along the way, and gives you the tools to succeed. Great leaders help the people around them improve, even to the point that their employees are better equipped than the leader themselves. When individuals are motivated and engaged, they naturally want to work harder and better, which brings financial success.

Impact of Great Leaders

Great leaders create engaged employees who want to come to work and give their best effort. A study by Zenger Folkman found that good leaders can double company profits, simply with their ability to motivate and engage employees. Organizations with the highest-quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform their competitors. Another study found that how managers lead accounts for a 28% variance in employee job satisfaction. Any company would love to have an increase in employee satisfaction, and it’s as simple as putting great leaders into management positions.

Great leaders also breed other great leaders. If you work for someone you admire and who displays great leadership skills, you’re more likely to also develop those skills and abilities. A great leader is like a pebble dropped in a pond who creates ripples of other good leaders all around them for years to come.

What Makes a Bad Leader?

On the flip side, a bad leader doesn’t care about people or creating an environment where employees want to improve and do their best work. Bad leaders often make their employees feel like cogs in the machine who are just there to clock in, do their job, and then clock out. Bad leaders often only care about the numbers or advancing their own career instead of creating a team mentality and moving the company towards success.

Impact of Bad Leaders

Employees who work for bad leaders often feel like their jobs are unenjoyable and meaningless. Studies have shown that working for a toxic leader leads to lower job satisfaction, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. But that lack of satisfaction carries over into other areas of employees’ lives. A study from the University of Manchester found that employees working for bad leaders or managers were more likely to experience clinical depression and over time became overly critical of their co-workers, took credit for each other’s work, and showed aggressive behavior to other people in the company. Clearly, the attitude of a bad leader isn’t contained in a single person. A leader sets the tone for the organization, which means their bad example and energy can spread through the entire organization and poison even good employees.

Bad leaders cause employees to become disengaged in their work and are one of the biggest reasons for employees leaving their jobs. In many cases, employees don’t quit companies—they quit managers and bosses who are difficult to work for. A Gallup survey of more than 1 million employees found a staggering 75% of people who had quit their jobs had done so because of their boss and not the actual position.

Developing Great Leaders

There’s a stark contrast between good leaders and bad leaders. It’s often easy to point out bad leaders in past organizations or looking in from the outside, but it’s more difficult to make a change when you’re in the midst of working for a bad leader. Companies shouldn’t be afraid to overhaul their internal teams and processes to get rid of bad leaders.

It’s impossible to only hire superstar leaders; organizations also need to learn how to develop people internally to create great leaders. Good leaders have a strong impact on the culture and overall success of the company. Investing in future leaders can have a large return as they motivate employees and help grow the company.

Leaders have the potential to make a huge impact in their organizations. Great leaders can inspire employees, attract talent, and increase revenue, while bad leaders can create a toxic environment and drive away employees and customers. Organizations need to prepare for the future by identifying and removing bad leaders and then replacing them with strong leaders and an internal leadership development program.

What kind of a leader are you and what kinds of leaders does your organization want to create?

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Leading Forum
Jacob Morgan is one of the world's leading authorities on leadership, employee experience, and the future of work. He is a 4x best-selling author, speaker, and professionally trained futurist. He is also the founder of The Future of Work University, an online education and training platform that helps future proof individuals and organizations by teaching them the skills they need to succeed in the future of work. His new book, The Future Leader, which is based on interviews with over 140 CEOs around the world is coming out January 2020.

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Good Followers Make the Best Leaders You Might Be a Bad Leader If

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:54 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development


The #1 Tactic That Will Help You Be More Productive as A Leader

Canaday More Productive

FOR THE PAST DECADE or so I have spent a lot of time in organizations getting to know their leaders and how they work. That inside look has given me a firsthand account of what they are dealing with on a daily basis. Suffice it so say, this is not your father’s organization.

For example, the amount of incoming communication is staggering. The average knowledge worker in the U.S. is interrupted every 11 minutes by some form of communication. Every 11 minutes! That kind of distraction takes an unseen toll on us as leaders. Add to that the mountains of data we are generating and the inability to keep up with it, let alone make real sense of it.

Today’s leaders are being asked to both do more AND think more. Is that even possible? I’m a fan of multi-tasking but this seems unreasonable. Expecting leaders to succeed in the context of a constant, act-more, think-more, produce-more world is self-defeating, at best. At worst, it could be disastrous for our projects, for our teams, and for our health.

So, how do we keep pace and, at the same time, get better as leaders.

Evolved leaders have figured out that they need to hit the pause button. Instead of making action the default for every challenge, these leaders are pairing that alternative with an opposite response. It’s not about replacing action, which we know is a necessary leadership ingredient. We still need to reach our goals, meet deadlines, and produce results. This is different.

They think of it as developing a companion habit that celebrates THINKING rather than DOING. It involves a strategic pause. A “mental time-in”. Space for their brains to percolate and process the mounds of the information they’ve been packing in.

If you want more time for big-picture-thinking and the “mental space” to envision vastly different solutions, follow these steps:

1. Make an Unbreakable Appointment with Yourself

Set time aside every day (or at least every week) to step away from the chaos and let yourself reflect and plan. To connect the dots between information in different ways and to look at challenges from a fresh angle. It can help you gain remarkable clarity and give you the mental space to finally execute on ideas you’ve been sidelining.

Yes, I know that will feel awkward at first. Your calendar is probably jam-packed with meetings and commitments, so it might seem unnecessarily selfish to mark off some “me time.” Don’t let that stop you. Consider this an unbreakable appointment with yourself.

2. Make everything you do earn its rightful place on your calendar

Why? Leaders often feel trapped by an endless treadmill of meetings and tedious paperwork and that level of chaos has likely become their new normal. Even strangely comfortable. In fact, NOT doing all of those things would somehow feel wrong. If you want to free up time to let all that you have consumed percolate, you need to take a fresh look at everything you do. Ask yourself:

• Does this meeting or task move me or my team forward?
• Does this support department or company objectives?
• Am I doing this to drive results or to make someone else comfortable?

Taking a fresh look at everything inevitably uncovers opportunities to free up time for big-picture thinking.

3. Make a “Stop Doing” List

Ironically, some leaders approach downsizing their to-do lists by…creating another list: a “Stop Doing List.” This is actually an excellent mental exercise and an important step in making room for a “mental time-in”. Your “Stop Doing List” might include things such as:

I will stop saying “yes” to every request without first considering its worth.
I will stop letting other people control my day and my time.
I will stop allowing interruptions that hijack my schedule.

Through the process of letting go, you can find time you never knew you had.

4. Encourage your team to pause.

As a leader, you have the power and influence to help your team members develop new habits that can make them more productive. Make sure they also have time in their schedules to stop and think. That’s tricky when deadlines are tight, but the long-term benefits will be worth it. Give them the calendar space that encourages them to give it a try.

As hard as it is for us doers to believe, all the evidence says that maximum effectiveness and innovation start with…STOPPING.

Yes, it’s tough to do. I admit it. We’ve been taught to move forward, to finish, to be relentless. We have even been handsomely rewarded for it.

But if you want your organization and your team to grow, take a strategic pause. Give yourself time and space. You, your team, and all your stakeholders will be glad you did.

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Leading Forum
Sara Canaday is a rare blend of analytical entrepreneur and perceptive warmth. That powerful combination has increasingly made her a go-to resource for helping leaders and high-potential professionals achieve their best.

Her insights come from her real-world experience and a surprising phenomenon she noticed in her own rise up the corporate ladder: The most successful people aren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQs or best job skills. Career advancement is actually more closely linked with how people apply their knowledge and talents—their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others. Sara is the author of Leadership Unchained: Defy Conventional Wisdom for Breakthrough Performance and You—According to Them. She is a sought-after leadership speaker and educator, a leadership instructor for LinkedIn Learning and is an adjunct Executive Coach with the Center for Creative Leadership.

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You According to Them Simplicity

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:03 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development


Asking Smart Questions Changes Everything

Asking Smart Questions

WE LIVE IN A TIME when accountability is often sidelined. When it is, there can be disastrous consequences in government, in politics, in the media, and in business. The antidote, I’ve found during my two decades as an accountability speaker and business consultant, is a thoughtful and persistent effort to infuse accountability into every objective, every task, and in every colleague-to-colleague and company-to-customer interaction. For the world-class companies that do this well, accountability isn’t an esoteric mandate handed down from senior leadership. Instead, it is a systemic root-to-tip effort that makes accountability an organic state of being that is cultivated on a daily basis by everyone within the organization. And believe it or not, it doesn’t take a Herculean effort. Accountability is easily nurtured by curiosity.

Simple Questions are the Seeds of Accountability

As a writer and accountability speaker, I stress the importance of my Seven Pillars of Accountability™: character, unity, learning, tracking, urgency, reputation, evolving. Every member of an organization can build and strengthen accountability by asking fundamental questions related to these pillars. Ask your peers and colleagues. Ask your immediate supervisor and members of the senior leadership team. Their answers, along with your own, will create a blueprint for better performance.

Here are some starter questions to help you begin cultivating the mindset that builds accountability. You don’t have to be a management expert, accountability speaker or business guru to be a catalyst for excellence. The important thing is to begin the discovery process that fosters it.

What does “living our core values” look like to you?
Does my behavior reflect the beliefs we stand for?
What is one thing I should start doing differently right now?

What are your key expectations for my position?
Am I delivering on what is expected of me?
What will happen if our organization fails to reach our objectives?

How can I be more effective within my role?
How does the organization intend to encourage my professional development and career growth?
What advice can you offer on ways I can move forward in my career?

What key performance indicators should I be measuring in my position?
Is our organization tracking metrics to drive performance or to empower people?
What intangibles should I be considering that can impact tracking?

Where is there room for greater excellence in my execution?
Am I overlooking an opportunity for incremental growth?
Are we simply “settling” in any areas of our organization?

How can I better collaborate with colleagues?
What can I do to make the company more successful?
If I was fired today, what changes would my replacement make?

Asking Isn’t Easy
As an accountability speaker and consultant, I work closely with organizations to help them determine actionable steps to strengthen identified weaknesses and place them on an upward trajectory. I can tell you there isn’t a magic formula. It begins by figuring out the relevant questions, asking them, and acting on the answers. However, for many leaders, sometimes the hardest part is in the asking of these questions.

While good leaders may solve problems, great leaders ask questions. In fact, great leaders create an environment where questions, especially tough questions, are welcomed, asked, and answered before decisions are made and after results are assessed. Are you ready to start asking smart questions in your organization?

That’s A Great Question

With years of first-hand experience, and in working closely with a variety of organizations, both leading and emerging, I’ve collected a list of over 500 provocative questions that explore 18 compelling topics centered around leadership and business. These questions, and other insights, are compiled in my book, That’s A Great Question: Are You Asking The Right Questions In Business? In Life? If you’re ready to take that next step towards becoming a great leader, this book will guide you in asking smart questions.

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Leading Forum
Greg Bustin advises leaders of some of the world’s most admired companies, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 200 strategic planning sessions, and he’s delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents. He is the author of How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices. To inquire about engaging Bustin as an accountability or leadership keynote speaker, creating a custom workshop for your organization, or discussing a strategic planning session, contact him at 214.720.3707 or by email at Greg.Bustin@Bustin.com

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Questions Are Answer Before You Accuse Ask

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:20 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development


3 Things You Need to Control to Succeed as a Leader

3 Things You Need to Control

SUCCESSFUL LEADERS know that we can control only 3 things in our life: our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If we can take charge over those, we can lead our organizations, and our lives, to our own vision of success.

That vision may differ for successful leaders: some want to grow their business into a huge company, while some want to stay small and keep a family atmosphere in their company. Regardless of how you view success, to achieve it you need to invest into understanding how your mind works. Then, you need to direct your thinking and feeling patterns, and the behaviors that result, to evaluating reality clearly, making the wisest decisions, and accomplishing your goals.

So how do our minds work? Intuitively, our mind feels like a cohesive whole. We perceive ourselves as intentional and rational thinkers. Yet cognitive science research shows that in reality, the intentional part of our mind is like a little rider on top of a huge elephant of emotions and intuitions.

Roughly speaking, we have two thinking systems. Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize for his research on behavioral economics, calls them System 1 and 2. I think autopilot system and intentional system describe these systems more clearly.

The autopilot system corresponds to our emotions and intuitions. Its cognitive processes take place mainly in the amygdala and other parts of the brain that developed early in our evolution. This system guides our daily habits, helps us make snap decisions, and reacts instantly to dangerous life-and-death situations, like saber-toothed tigers, through the freeze, fight, or flight stress response. While helping our survival in the past, the fight-or-flight response is not a great fit for modern life.

We have many small stresses in our work that are not life-threatening, but the autopilot system treats them as saber-toothed tigers. That produces an unnecessarily stressful everyday life experience that undermines our mental and physical well-being. Moreover, while the snap judgments resulting from intuitions and emotions usually feel true because they are fast and powerful, they often lead us wrong in systemic and predictable ways.

For example, we make bad hires if we rely on our autopilot system. The autopilot system leads to us making too-optimistic plans and ignore weaknesses and threats in our businesses and our careers. It leads us into errors in negotiating with others, in mergers and acquisitions, and in assessing company performance. True leaders learn to avoid simply trusting their gut to address autopilot system errors.

By contrast, the intentional system reflects our rational thinking, and centers around the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that evolved more recently. According to recent research, it developed as humans started to live within larger social groups. This thinking system helps us handle more complex mental activities. These include managing individual and group relationships, logical reasoning, probabilistic thinking, and learning new information and patterns of thinking and behavior. Notice how these activities are exactly the kinds of things necessary for leaders to succeed.

While the automatic system requires no conscious effort to function, the intentional system takes deliberate effort to turn on and is mentally tiring. Fortunately, with enough motivation and appropriate training, the intentional system can turn on in situations where the autopilot system is prone to make errors, especially costly ones.

The autopilot system is like an elephant. It’s by far the more powerful and predominant of the two systems. Our emotions can often overwhelm our rational thinking.

Moreover, our intuitions and habits determine the large majority of our life, which we spend in autopilot mode. And that’s not a bad thing at all – it would be mentally exhausting to think intentionally about our every action and decision.

The intentional system is like the elephant rider. It can guide the elephant deliberately to go in a direction that matches our actual goals. It can help you address the systematic and predictable errors that we make due to how our brain is wired, what scholars term cognitive biases. Over 100 cognitive biases exist, and more are found all the time by scholars in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience. We make these mistakes not only in work, but also in other life areas, for example in our shopping choices, as revealed by a series of studies done by a shopping comparison website.

Fortunately, recent research in these fields shows how you can use pragmatic strategies to notice and address these dangerous judgment errors. The elephant part of the brain – which is most prone to cognitive biases – is huge and unwieldy, slow to turn and change, and stampedes at threats.

But we can train the elephant. Your rider can be an elephant whisperer. Over time, you can use the intentional system to change your automatic thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns, and reach true success!

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Leading Forum
Gleb Tsipursky is on a mission to protect leaders from dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases by developing the most effective decision-making strategies. He is the author of Never Go With Your Gut (2019), The Blindspots Between Us (2020), and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook (2017). He has over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Fast Company, CBS News, Time, Business Insider, Government Executive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training as the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts. Sign-up for his Wise Decision Maker Newsletter.

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Help Them Grow About Biases

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


General Jim Mattis on Learning to Lead

Mattis Learning to Lead

IT’S NOT SURPRISING that we learn a lot about character from the military. Good character is mission-critical. Under extreme circumstances, if you don’t have good character, the result is extremely bad consequences. In war, character is not a platitude.

Good character development is evident in Call Sign Chaos. Written by Jim Mattis and made better with the help of Bing West, the book details the lessons Mattis learned from more than 40 years in the Marine Corps. He organizes the book in terms of the changing nature of his leadership responsibilities as he moved up the ranks. First, he learned face-to-face or direct leadership. At a time when, “alongside those I led, I had a personal, often intense bond with troops I frequently knew better than my own brothers.”

Next, he discusses executive leadership, where commanding a force of 7,000 to 42,000 troops, it was impossible to know them all individually, so communications and leadership styles must adapt.

Finally, he covers the challenges and techniques relevant to strategic leadership from a senior military officer’s perspective.

(His call sign, CHAOS, was given to him by his operations officer, John Toolan.” It stands for, “Does the Colonel Have Another Outstanding Solution?” “There’s always a Toolan, “he writes, “waiting out there to keep your ego in check, providing you keep the risk-takers and mavericks at your side.”)

As is commonly done, a book is a good place to settle scores and vent your opinions. Although Mattis resigned halfway through his appointment as Secretary of Defense at the end of 2018, he writes, “I’m old-fashioned: I don’t write about sitting presidents.” “Old-fashioned” is often another way of saying character.

Importantly, he talks about the challenge of communicating the commander’s intent. When commanding a large number of troops or a large organization, a leader must be able to communicate their intent in such a way as to allow people to act. It requires discipline and trust.

Developing a culture of operating from commander’s intent demanded a higher level of unit discipline and self-discipline than issuing voluminous, detailed instructions.

In drafting my intent, I learned to provide only what is necessary to achieve a clearly defined end-state: tell your team the purpose of the operation, giving no more than the essential details of how you intend to achieve the mission, and then clearly state your goal or end state, one that enables what you intend to do next. Leave the “how” to your subordinates, who must be trained and rewarded for exercising initiative, taking advantage of opportunities and problems as they arise.

It highlights the need for clear and consistently enforced values to guide teams and organizations. Commander’s intent provides a framework that everyone can operate from.

Mattis also mentions the need to get inside the enemy’s OODA loop—to adapt faster than they could. The OODA loop is a concept developed by Colonel John Boyd and stands for observe–orient–decide–act. In uncertain and changing environments, one can gain the advantage if they can ensure that their OODA loops are functioning, as Mattis puts it, “at the speed of relevance. It is possible then, to get inside the enemy’s OODA loop. This is made possible, in part, by having the commander’s intent clearly communicated and understood. The OODA loop helps us to shift our perspective from what we want things to be to what they are in reality. A common organizational problem.

Our campaign’s success was based on not giving the enemy time to react. To win a dogfight, Boyd wrote, you have to observe what is going on, orient yourself, decide what to do, and act before your opponent has completed his version of that same process, repeating and repeating this loop faster than your foe.

Call Sign Chaos has actionable ideas throughout for any team. What follows are quotes taken from the book that will give you a flavor for what is addressed here:

The Marine philosophy is to recruit for attitude and train for skills. Marines believe that attitude is a weapon system.

I was taught to use the concept of “command and feedback.” You don’t control your subordinate commanders’ every move; you clearly state your intent and unleash their initiative. Based on feedback, you fix the problem. George Washington, leading a revolutionary army, followed a “listen, learn, and help, then lead,” sequence.

I matched personalities to anticipated tasks.

I’ve found this imagining technique—walking through what lies ahead, acclimating hearts and minds to the unexpected—an essential leadership tool.

Once he’s removed from direct interaction with his troops, a commander must guard most rigorously against overcontrol, compounded by the seduction of immediate communications.

If you can’t talk freely with the most junior members of your organization, then you’ve lost touch.

When you are in command, there is always the next decision waiting to be made. You don’t have time to pace back and forth like Hamlet, zigzagging one way and the other. You do your best and live with the consequences. A commander has to compartmentalize his emotions and remain focused on the mission. You must decide, act, and move on.

I don’t care how operationally brilliant you are; if you can’t create harmony—vicious harmony—on the battlefield, based on trust across different military services, foreign allied militaries, and diplomatic lines, you need to go home, because your leadership is obsolete.

In an age when cynicism too often passes for critical thinking, it’s worthwhile to remember that young men and women who sign up for the military still fight for ideals.

When things go wrong, a leader must stand by those who made the decision under extreme pressure and with incomplete information. Initiative and audacity must be supported, whether or not successful.

The more trust there is inside a unit, the more strain that unit can withstand without a lot of discussion.

I’ve always tried to be hard on issues but not on spirits.

A senior leader in any organization must recognize when his environment has changed.

If there’s something you don’t want people to see, you ought to reconsider what you’re doing.

A leader’s role is problem solving. If you don’t like problems, stay out of leadership. Smooth sailing teaches nothing

Discipline is our protective fabric.

You cannot allow your passion for excellence to destroy your compassion for them as human beings.

Culture is a way of life shared by a group of people—how they act, what they believe, how they treat one another, and what they value.

At inflection points, as history has made clear, change must come at the speed of relevance. Leaders must shelter those challenging nonconformists and mavericks who make institutions uncomfortable; otherwise, you wash out innovation.

Living in history builds your own shock absorber, because you’ll learn that there are lots of old solutions to new problems. If you haven’t read hundreds of books, learning from others who went before you, you are functionally illiterate—you can’t coach and you can’t lead. History lights the often dark path ahead; even if it’s a dim light, it’s better than none. If you can’t be additive as a leader, you’re just like a potted plant in the corner of a hotel lobby: you look pretty, but you’re not adding substance to the organization’s mission.

Trust is the coin of the realm for creating the harmony, speed, and teamwork to achieve success at the lowest cost. Yet it’s not enough to trust your people; you must be able to convey that trust in a manner that subordinates can sense. Only then can you fully garner the benefits.

Allowing bad processes to stump good people is intolerable.

Leaders at all ranks, but especially at high ranks, must keep in their inner circle people who will unhesitatingly point out when a leader’s personal behavior or decisions are not appropriate. In its own way, this, too, is part of command and feedback, for none of us are infallible.

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No Better Friend Robert Gates

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:51 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development


Sailing True North and the Voyage of Character

Sailing True North

THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE for character. Better systems, better laws can’t make up for it. Without good character, leaders can go south fast. The problem is that there is very little attention paid to how to develop good character. We learn best by example, but it is wise to look into the lives of others and understand the outcomes of their lives as a result of their character or lack of it.

Four-star U.S. Navy Admiral and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO James Stavridis gives us a comprehensive look at ten admirals in Sailing True North. He looks at their differing character traits and personalities and the effect it had not only on their careers but on those they lead.

He begins 25oo years ago with the Greek Themistocles and moves forward to the lives of 14th-century Chinese admiral Zheng He, Sir Francis Drake, Horatio Nelson, Alfred Thayer Mahan, John Fisher, Chester Nimitz, Hyman Rickover, Bud Zumwalt Jr., and finally, Grace Hopper. While each of their voyages on the open sea was demanding, it was “vastly easier than the inner voyage we all must sail every day of our lives. That voyage of character is the most important journey each of us ever makes.

Stavridis writes this out of a growing sense that “in this postmodern era that we are witnessing the slow death of character, driven by a global culture that has turned increasingly away from classic values—honesty, commitment, resilience, accountability, moderation—to a world that moves at breakneck speed and refuses to slow down and consider what is right and just.” Sadly, he notes too that “we have lost the ability to hone our character in private, and our lives are on display seemingly from the moment we are born. We overshare publicly and under-reflect privately on what our individual voyages mean.”

It is good for us to slow down and look at these lives and use what we learn to adjust the course of our lives to be the best we can be. There is much we can learn from others. Biographies provide us with feedback on our own lives in a most palatable way if we take the time to apply what we learn.

None of these admirals was perfect, but we can learn from them all. “The nature of any human is not what they do when the choices are easy, and the metaphorical sun is shining, but rather what they do when the options are morally ambiguous, and the seas are rough.”

Some of the navigational advice we can learn from the lives of these admirals is:

A leader should avoid getting into a position where the only way to persuade an audience is by an almost magical feat of rhetoric.

Great leaders learn how to balance inherent uncertainty with a firm-enough grasp of context to enable decisive action.

Finding the balance between determination and an open mind is one of the ongoing tests of character for us all.

The most defining issue of character is curiosity.

That combination of relentless perseverance and an unbounded desire to “seize the new” is very, very rare in leaders.

You need the deepest reserves of character—strategic patience especially—to implement vision. Rickover was a curious combination of someone who was supremely tactically impatient, to the point of real anger, but had deep reserves of strategic patience to implement a long-term vision—a very rare combination in terms of character, and it served him well.

A little innovation today is often the best insurance against epochal change tomorrow. I often ask—and especially encourage young leaders to ask—what any organization I lead is doing right now that is going to look really wrong fifty years in the future.

Stavridis shares ten character traits that he has learned from the admirals he showcases and from his own experience as an admiral.

At the top of his list is creativity—“a willingness to embrace the new, despite the difficulties and challenges of doing so.” You must find a way to bring along the nonbelievers. Second is resilience. Learn from your experiences and set new goals and keep moving. Third, he lists humility. Arrogance is toxic to a leader. “It is a lot easier to be resilient when you are humble to begin with.”

The fourth quality is the need to find balance in our lives. Most of the admirals he lists in the book failed this test. After all, ambition often drives the lack of balance in our lives. Fifth is honesty—“being truthful no matter the cost.” Make truth a habit. Sixth is empathy. “Most of us are terribly self-centered.” See outside yourself. “A virtuous person begins every encounter with the world not from their own perspective alone, but rather by trying to understand the situation, mindset, and challenges that others are facing.”

Seventh is believing a sense of justice matters. Self-control is at work here. Eighth is decisiveness. Ninth is determination. Never give up, as Churchill said, “except in convictions of honor and good sense.” The final character trait he lists is perspective. We can’t take ourselves too seriously. “We need to understand that in the end we are but sailing in a tiny ship on the boundless sea.” A good sense of humor goes a long way toward maintaining a proper perspective.

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Robert Gates How Character Erodes

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Learning to Lead with Ron Williams

Learning to Lead Williams

WHO IS looking out for you?

“No boss or mentor drove my success—although they did open doors for me. My success came about through a combination of hard work, continual learning, fortunate career choices, and a bit of luck—by being in the right place at the right time,” writes Ron Williams. Williams is best known for his tenure as CEO and Chairman of Aetna, where he transformed a $292 million operating loss into $2 billion in annual earnings.

In Learning to Lead, Williams shows how anyone can grow and succeed as leaders. He grew up in a working-class family in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago in the 1960s. The book is exceptional. He weaves the experiences of his career with the lessons we can all learn from them. Well told and insightful.

He begins by asserting that the single most important asset you have is you. As a result, you need to focus on getting better. “Two things are essential: a deep personal commitment to excellence in everything you do and a commitment to continual improvement.” He encourages us to strive to become 15% better each year in concrete and actionable ways. To do that you need to really think about what you are going to do differently. If you want to be extraordinary, you need to stretch yourself above the average person.

Exceed your job description. Do it for you and build a reputation. “By sticking to tasks listed in your job description, you are refusing to demonstrate your ability to perform at a higher level. Why should anyone think of you as a potential leader when you’ve provided them with no evidence to suggest it?”

For him, his underprivileged background represented an opportunity. “The world and its people were a puzzle for me to solve.” He reframed his world. It is our mindset that often makes it impossible to escape the box we find ourselves in. “Reframing is about creating a new mental landscape with a larger scope of freedom, a greater degree of flexibility, and a set of alternative ways of approaching any problem—which can often lead to new and unexpected solutions.”

You know you need to reframe when what you hear around you is, “Everybody knows” and “It’s obvious that.” “It’s a sign that you and your colleagues may be trapped in a box of your own making—one in desperate need of reframing.”

On the topic of mentors, Williams believes that they are helpful, but you shouldn’t spend your time looking for one. “Mentors come along without planning. Mentorship must arise naturally out of the situation rather than being forced.” However, and his is key, “that doesn’t mean you can’t make a conscious effort to learn from the people around you. As you work on learning to lead yourself, you should also seek out others whose examples, experiences, and insights can be of value to you.”

When people do (or seem to) get in your way, rather than finding blame, assume positive intent. You can choose how you respond to negative events. We don’t need to take it personally. “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.” Assuming positive intent has been one of William’s secret weapons throughout his career. It is an “empowering strategy that disarms defensiveness and turns potential enemies into allies.”

When leading others and you are faced with opposition to a project or deadline, Williams says that the leader’s job is to ask a lot of pointed questions. “When people protested that a particular deadline I suggested was ‘impossible,’ I would ask, ‘Can you help me understand how you determined that?’ or ‘What are the factors that led you to conclude it’s impossible?’ I avoided starting my questions with the word why, having long ago discovered that ‘why’ questions tend to make people feel defensive—and respond accordingly. By contrast, the more oblique wordings I used directed attention away from the blame game and exactly where I wanted it—toward uncovering the root causes behind their objections.”

A leader also needs to ask questions that lead people to think about the problems they face in a new way; to overcome their mental barriers—“those unquestioned assumptions, unexplored options, or unchallenged rules of thumb that keep people stuck at a low level of achievement.” These mental barriers cause us to reinforce them with information that supports them and ignore the evidence that should alert and enlighten us. We hurt ourselves and our organizations when we act on our untruths.

Williams includes a chapter on managing up and down and presents his Two-Up/Two-Down System. “Paying close attention to the ideas, information, and concerns of the people around you—especially those operating from a different perspective or from a different location in the organizational hierarchy—is key to leadership success. Learning to correctly grasp what I call strategic intent of those in important positions above you and below you in the organizational hierarchy is a vital leadership practice, one that you should try to make into a daily habit.”

Williams provides lessons in communication, creating a positive culture, defining reality, and many more. Putting in practice what he presents here does not require extraordinary gifts. “Your own abilities can suffice to make you an effective leader—provided you focus on the daily challenges around you and then work doggedly, thoughtfully, and positively with the people around you to overcome them.”

There is a lot of emotional intelligence contained in this book. Reading it is a good way to develop your own EQ and check your self-awareness. Use Learning to Lead to prepare yourself answer the call to lead when it comes.

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The Best Mentor You Can Find is Up to You!

The Best Mentor You Can Find is Up to You

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”
— Benjamin Disraeli

WHEN I WAS a young Army lieutenant, I met with my Assignment (Personnel) Officer, Major Tom Montgomery in Washington D.C. on my way to Germany in the summer of 1977. I never expected that he would become my first true mentor.

There was no contractual agreement or even a discussion about such a relationship, and through all these years, I’ve never mentioned the word “mentor” to him. But, throughout our relationship, our conversations have given me volumes of knowledge about leadership and a host of other topics.

I saw in him a leadership style similar to my own, just more seasoned. I wanted to learn as much as I could from him and use similar techniques as my own leadership responsibilities grew. He helped me get certain jobs and I worked directly for him once. We remain great friends to this day.

Receiving mentorship is a vital element in learning about leadership… and being a mentor is a responsibility of all great leaders.

I believe there are four types of mentors: assigned, self-appointed, sought-after, and what I call “virtual.” I have experienced all four. The first three are rather self-evident in terms of what they mean. What I’ve found the most valuable, however, is this last one, virtual.

What do I mean?

Virtual mentorship is something you do on your own. You simply pay attention to all of the people around you and learn from them. This can apply to both your professional and personal life. Pay attention to what others do or say that is particularly smart or good, then adopt it as your own habit. Notice also when a leader does something incredibly dumb or harmful to others, then put that in your leadership reservoir as well, so that you will never do the same. We’ve all seen good and bad behavior and said to ourselves: “If I ever get into that position, I hope I behave—or do not behave—like that.”

Think of your life as a journey carrying a backpack, and observed behaviors are rocks you find along the path. Pick up both the good and bad—the good for future use and the bad to remind you not to repeat what those rocks represent. I’ve got plenty of rocks in my backpack—of both kinds—that I’ve picked up along my life’s journey. All great leaders learn something from those they encounter along their journey.

It’s also a good practice to acknowledge those who provided meaningful lessons. I regularly cite those who taught me something that I now use myself. I also store away lessons that I want to avoid from leaders who I don’t want to emulate, though I generally refrain from naming them.

Perhaps one of the greatest periods during which I learned from others was my time in the Pentagon in the late 1990s. My 23 years of service to that point had been exclusively within Army ranks, with no duty served in another military branch. But in 1996, when I became a new brigadier general, I was assigned to the Joint Staff in the Pentagon.

I served during this time with a number of great military leaders who influenced me. Lieutenant General Pete Pace (later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was the J3 of the Joint Staff. I had to brief him each morning. My immediate supervisor was first Major General John Van Alstyne, then later Rear Admiral Tim Keating (who eventually became the Pacific Command Commander and Northern Command Commander as a 4-star admiral). Brigadier General Jim Conway (later Commandant of the Marine Corps) was a fellow 1-star and Colonel David Petraeus was the Executive Officer for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton.

Lieutenant Colonel Terry “Guts” Robling served there as well and would later become my boss as a three-star general when he commanded Marine Corps Forces Pacific and I was his civilian Executive Director. That was a particularly interesting relationship, as he was a lieutenant colonel when I was a brigadier general in 1996. While he didn’t report to me, we knew each other and occasionally worked together. Seventeen years later, I reported to him.

I remember our first discussion in his office in 2013, where I made clear that while we had a different relationship in the Pentagon, I was perfectly fine working for him. I remember him saying he was, as well. He was very comfortable in his own skin. We got along great in the two years of his command tenure and remain good friends to this day.

Good leaders don’t patent their behaviors; they willingly pass them on. I have borrowed many leadership techniques—perhaps most of them—from others who freely gave them up, and from some who didn’t even know I took them. Let your greatest legacy be that you pass on the best-of-breed leadership traits you’ve learned from others.

I freely pass on mine. Many are in my new book, Leadership: The Art of Inspiring People to Be Their Best.

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Leading Forum
Major General (Retired) Craig Whelden is the author of the international best selling book, Leadership: The Art of Inspiring People to Be Their Best. This is an extract from Chapter Three: “Are You My Mentor?” Learn more about Craig, his book, and speaking opportunities at www.craigwhelden.com

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It’s the Manager: Moving from Boss to Coach

Its the Manager

NOT SURPRISINGLY, a Gallup World Poll found that the great global dream is to have a good job with mission, purpose, and at a living wage. But the vast majority—85%—hate their jobs.

If you couple that fact with George Gallup’s “single most profound, distinct and clarifying finding ever” that 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager, then the issue becomes the manager.

That being the case, the single key to maximizing human potential and organizational growth is to improve the quality of the manager. The most important person in your organization to bring teams together and lead them to great decisions is the manager.

Jim Clifton and Jim Harter of Gallup explain how to build a strengths-based culture that attracts the best employees and maximizes their potential in It’s the Manager. They cover five major topic areas—Strategy, Culture, Employment Brand, Boss to Coach, and Future of Work—an offer 52 discoveries from Gallup’s largest study of the future of work. The most important sections for me are Employment Brand and Boss to Coach.

The practice of management has been stuck in time for more than 30 years, despite the world and workplace going through extraordinary historical change. “The problem is, while the science of management has advanced significantly in the past three decades, the practice of management hasn’t.”

In the new working environment, one of the biggest challenges is for managers to go from boss to coach.

The old boss-to-employee, command-and-control leadership environment has “worked” when it comes to building process-efficiency systems, engineering large buildings, and creating infrastructure. But the top-down leadership techniques of the past have not adapted to a workplace that now demands coaching and collaboration to thrive.

However, I would argue that top-down and coaching and collaboration are not necessarily mutually exclusive. That said, coaching requires three things: establish expectations, continually coach, and create accountability. Their research has found that “employees whose manager involved them in setting goals were nearly four times more likely to be engaged than other employees” and those who receive “daily feedback from their manager are three timed more likely to be engaged than those who receive feedback once a year or less.”

Gallup analytics finds that most current team leaders do not have the natural tendencies for managing people. We often promote people for the wrong reasons like success in a prior non-management role and tenure.

Organizations still think largely in terms of promoting up the corporate ladder when other options exist like changing teams, projects, or even managers.

Unfortunately, many organizations still offer only one way “up”: Become a manager, even if your strengths aren’t in management. Some people who aren’t really cut out to be managers may do an OK job, but they never feel quite right managing. And this affects their wellbeing—and the wellbeing of those they manage.

Gallup research fronds that great managers have these five traits: Motivation (inspiring teams to get exceptional work done), Workstyle (setting goals and arranging resources for the team to excel), Initiation (influencing others to act; pushing through adversity and resistance), Collaboration (building committed teams with deep roots), and Thought Process (taking an analytical approach to strategy and decision-making).

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There is a code to take the CliftonStrengths assessment and an appendix section that provides guidance for leading with each of the 34 strengths.

(As a side note, I found this statistic enlightening: “Your employees are grumbling, as 50% of them are making less than they were 35 years ago. In real terms—overall—your employees have not received a raise in more than 35 years. Their expenses of housing, healthcare, and education are exploding while paycheck sizes are frozen or declining.”)

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Strengths Based Leadership Strengths  Finder2

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:18 AM
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Grace: A Leader's Guide to a Better Us


GRACE, a concept present in all of the world’s major religions, has a divine meaning. Grace, in a secular sense—that is on a human level—is about perspective. A perspective larger than ourselves. A perspective that reaches to a purpose beyond who we are alone. In short, our connectedness.

Grace is a critical part of who great leaders should be. To that end, John Baldoni has tackled for us in Grace: A Leader’s Guide to a Better Us, an attribute that is in short supply today. Grace is something all leaders should model for the benefit of those around them so that it spreads to society in general.

Grace is foundational to service. Baldoni writes:

Love, sacrifice, truth, and courage are virtues made actionable by grace. We may be disposed to do what is right; grace gives us the impetus to act upon doing it. Grace then becomes the inspiration for treating individuals with generosity, respect, and compassion. It manifests itself as action in the name of others, and it energizes us to act upon our beliefs.

To help us better understand grace and to help us intentionally apply it in our leadership, Baldoni explores grace from five perspectives with this acronym:

G is for Generosity: the will to do something for others.
R is for Respect: the dignity of life and work.
A is for Action: the mechanism for change.
C is for Compassion: the concern for others.
E is for Energy: the spirit that catalyzes us.


Gracious people give of themselves. Gracious people leverage who they are and what they have for the benefit of others. Baldoni shares a great quote from British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”

Gracious leaders share time, knowledge, and power. They cultivate a selfless approach to life. Generosity emanates from an abundance mindset. A selfless person, even in the midst of personal adversity, can find something to share with others. That attitude is contagious.


Self-awareness opens the door to respect for others. A fully self-aware person knows her faults as well as her strengths. Such awareness compels the self to acknowledge the dignity of others.” Humility plays a big part here. Respect and self-respect fuel each other. They grow together.


Grace is intentional. A reactive mind rarely manifests grace. While grace that has been shown to us comes freely, it requires effort for us to generate it ourselves. Grace means rising above a perceived slight.

Grace is often manifested in clarity of purpose and civility. Civility is a decision we make. “No matter what leaders may feel inside, they think before they speak. They focus not on themselves, but on the needs of others—on healing.” Instilling civility in the workplace is the job of leaders.


Gracious people have the capacity to forgive and show mercy. “Grace enables us to take the higher road, to think more clearly.” It meets rage with love and civility.

Gratitude enables compassion—both gratitude expressed and felt. “Gratitude is that capacity to care. We need to reframe our lives with a constant awareness of just how important feeling gratitude within ourselves is because it actually helps our overall well-being.”


Grace requires energy. “It renews itself through practice as well as by taking in life, doing one’s best, enjoying the highlights, mourning the losses, and do so in the full spirit of life. In forgiveness, mercy, joy, and humor.” Grace draws energy from a positive outlook and an abundance mindset.

When we demonstrate grace in our leadership, it spills into other areas of our life as well because it is an approach to life. Our example encourages others to begin to think that way as well. Grace—in all of the dimensions Baldoni explores in this book—is a value that has fallen on hard times. It is time to revive it in our personal lives, in the workplace, social media, and in public discourse.

Grace celebrates grace as well as advocates for it. Baldoni shares many examples of people from all walks of life who demonstrate grace in their lives. They are an inspiration to us all.

Grace reduces the space between us. Our environment often pushes us into negativity; into the differences between us. Grace intentionally overlooks the negative and leverages the positive. It finds the connection and promotes it.

Baldoni breaks the often intangible idea of grace into down-to-earth actionable behaviors that we can all intentionally implement into our lives. You will find a self-assessment tool of 20 questions to help you take an honest look at how much you have allowed grace to fill your thoughts and behaviors.

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Mastering Civility Books By John Baldoni

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Scaling Leadership the McKinsey Way

Leadership at Scale

BEFORE YOU BEGIN your next leadership development program, read this.

It is not uncommon to hear leaders complain that leadership development programs are not delivering the effective leaders necessary to execute their strategies and purpose. While there is no end of leadership advice, it doesn’t always translate into leaders that can deliver the results the organization needs.

In Leadership at Scale, McKinsey partners Claudio Feser, Michael Rennie, and Nicolai Chen Nielson share the McKinsey method for developing more and better leaders across an organization. “Scale implies touching a critical mass of leaders and employees to reach a tipping point—after which point the change become self-sustaining and the organization fundamentally changes how it leads.”

To begin, to improve leadership effectiveness in an organization as a whole, it is imperative that leaders “think at an organizational, system-wide level, and the approach one takes to do this differs markedly from that of increasing the effectiveness of individual leaders.”

The McKinsey approach is founded on four beliefs that constitute effective leadership:

1. Leaders align, execute and renew. “Leaders make decisions about people and direction (alignment); they see that their intent is carried out (execution); and they think about the next evolution of activity (renewal).” Renewal refers to the constantly changing environment. “Organizational contexts have and will always be changing, and a key element of leadership is thus to display resilience and agility in order to continue to thrive.”

2. All leadership takes place within a context. “We strongly believe that there is no such thing as standard leadership behavior that works irrespective of contextual factors, such as corporate strategy or the level of hierarchy of a given position.”

3. Skills built through real-life experience enable effective leadership behaviors. “Great leaders’ skills are forged on-the-job, and the experience and skills that leaders have accumulated help them display more effective leadership behaviors.”

4. Leaders must develop the right mindsets based on introspection and self-awareness. “We focus on mindsets because mindsets ultimately drive behaviors. Making one’s mindset the subject of conscious scrutiny is an indispensable prerequisite of leadership effectiveness.”

That leads us to the Leadership at Scale Diamond.

Leadership at Scale Diamond

Underpinning the McKinsey approach are four core principles they call the Leadership at Scale Diamond. These principles must exist to increase leadership effectiveness across an organization.

Leadership Scale Diamond

Core Principle 1: Focus on the critical shifts that drive disproportionate value.

Link leadership development to the organizational context and strategy and focus on the three to five shifts (behaviors, skill, and mindsets) that will have the biggest impact on performance.

Surprisingly, leadership development is often not aligned with the organization’s purpose and strategy. In their research, executives have told them that “their organizations have not translated their strategy to their needs.” Instead, they have used “generic and broad competency models.” The result is not surprising.

Their research identified three categories of leadership behaviors:

Baseline Behaviors: Effectiveness at facilitating group collaboration, Demonstrating concern for people, Championing desired change, and Offering Critical perspectives. These behaviors apply in any context, but they by themselves do not differentiate between mediocre and top performance.
Situational Behaviors: Their effectiveness is context-specific
Adaptive Behaviors: These help you move between different contexts

McKinsey also concluded that only a few behaviors drive organizational performance and that varies by context. So, in addition to context-specific behaviors is the ability of a sufficient number of leaders in an organization to be able to rapidly adjust to different situations and the accompanying behaviors.

Core Principle 2: Engage a critical mass of pivotal influencers across the organization to reach a tipping point.

Organizations must ensure sufficient breadth, depth, and pace in order to change leadership behaviors across the organization, and to give all employees an understanding of what great leadership looks like.

Pivotal influencers are those 5 to 15% that others look to for cues as to what success looks like in the organization. Work first with these people with the understanding that developing a repertoire of leadership capabilities takes time. And of course, the training should reflect that truth.

Core Principle 3: Architect programs that maximize behavioral change based on neuroscience.

Design interventions with an explicit focus on helping individuals become “better at their daily jobs” using the latest principles linked to neuroscience, to maximize the value and organizational impact of what is taught and learned.

Rather than just the teach and classroom approach, leaders need to practice the new behaviors. McKinsey designs programs around seven adult learning principles:

  • Stretching participants outside their comfort zones
  • Using self-directed learning and self-discovery
  • Applying on-the-job learning to form new skills through repetition and practice
  • Providing a positive frame to link positive emotions to learning
  • Ensuring the interventions are strengths-based
  • Addressing underlying mindsets (whole-person approach)
  • Using reflection and coaching to ensure feedback loops

Core Principle 4: Integrate and measure the program in the broader organization

Organizations must ensure that the broader ecosystem directly supports and reinforces the shift in behaviors, skills, and mindsets that the leadership development program promotes.

You can’t run a leadership development initiative in isolation and expect positive results. The culture of the organization must support it or enable the new behaviors that the organization needs both formally and informally. The authors note that the actual capability building journey is only 25% of what is required. “People’s behaviors are heavily influenced by their broader context, and in order to sustainable shift their behaviors, you need to shift the context.”

In part two of the book, they share this approach in practice. It is quite comprehensive, and the case studies are instructive.

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Becoming a 100X Leader

Becoming A 100X Leader

A 100X LEADER is a 100% healthy leader who multiplies that mindset to those they lead. A leader that climbs their own Mount Everest every day and acts as a Sherpa to others at the same time. A 100X leader has become a leader worth following and builds leaders worth following.

Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram wrote The 100X Leader to help you become a 100X Leader in all spheres of influence in your life—leading yourself, a company, a team, or a family—and to become a Sherpa for others.

Your climb to becoming a 100X leader begins with self-awareness and courage. The courage “to invest in yourself and what is most important in your life, the courage to do difficult things that are contrary to your natural tendencies, the courage to hold up a mirror and take a hard look at what others see and wish you would do something about, the courage to make the subtle changes you view as insignificant but are likely the most important to others, the courage to stay at it when the positive results see slow to come.”

You don’t become a 100X leader by accident. It’s hard and requires a deliberate process. Kubieck and Cockram guide you through that process. Leading yourself or others is a balance between the right amount of support and challenge. “Support means to provide the appropriate help others need to do their jobs well.” To equip them. Challenge “means to motivate people by holding them accountable to what they could do if they had the resources.”

It is important to remember that we must begin with support before we challenge. Support builds trust. “The art of leadership is the appropriate calibration of support and challenge at a specific moment, in a specific context for a specific reason.”

The authors present the Support-Challenge Matrix shown below. You want to operate in the top right quadrant—liberate—as much as you can. Each quadrant represents a different leadership style and the culture it creates.

Support Challenge Matrix

We tend to dominate others under stress by requiring much but with little support. “Dominating leads to compliance, whereas liberating leads to engagement.”

These leaders create caution by giving a great deal of support but very little in the way of challenge or reasonable expectations. Wanting everything to run smoothly and without conflict, these leaders tend to hint at what they want rather than coming out and saying it.

These leaders have simply given up. Perhaps they are overwhelmed, tired, burned-out, or bored. They create a lifeless culture with low expectations.

These leaders have learned how to liberate in every circle of influence—self, family, team, organization, and community. “To liberate means to fight for the highest possible good of those you lead” by using the intentional calibration of support and challenge. Ask these questions: “What specific support and challenge do they need from me? What is the tendency or pattern most undermining their influence? And How do I help them get to the next level?” The process requires a long-term commitment.

Being a Liberator means knowing how other people experience you and then helping others to do the same. It’s being intentional about what you are doing. Having the humility to “commit to a process of uncovering our weaknesses. Our natural tendencies don’t really change, but with intentionality, humility, and effort we can begin to have a choice between the default patterns of how we normally respond to a situation and what we actively choose to do or say instead.” We liberate ourselves from leading on autopilot. Once we liberate ourselves, we can then help others see the mountain ahead of them and equip them to get to the next level.

Kubieck and Cockram provide a comprehensive look at how to become a 100X Leader by showing us the mountain and then illuminating the way and providing the tools and equipment necessary to complete the climb. Climbing Mount Everest is dangerous and demanding, but without a Sherpa, it is virtually impossible. The 100X Leader is our Sherpa and teaches us how to become a Sherpa for others. And as with the Sherpa, success is measured by not how many times they reach the top of Everest but by how many they have helped reach the summit.

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You Might Be a Bad Leader If…


NONE OF US would readily admit to being a bad leader. We see ourselves as pretty good or at least well-intentioned. But people don’t experience our intentions; they experience what we actually do.

When we struggle to get along with others or simply get things done, we would be wise to look at our assumptions and behaviors. Even just focusing on improving in one area can do wonders for your leadership and have a huge impact on those who follow you.

No matter how good we are as leaders, we all do a little harm along the way. So it’s good to look at the ways bad leadership shows up so we can minimize the bad and amplify good leadership.

You might be a bad leader if you are motivated by power and status. This motivation invariably leads to corruption and unethical behavior. It’s most often why otherwise effective leaders go bad. It opens the door for every other kind of mindset we associate with bad leaders. Our leadership must be about something bigger than us. Power is something to be shared.

You might be a bad leader if you are easily overwhelmed. It is the nature of leadership to function in uncertainty. What makes it possible is a clarity of purpose about why we are doing what we are doing. Leaders must continuously communicate that purpose to lead others an often volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world.

You might be a bad leader if you are too rigid. This is a failure to stay relevant. Staying the course is admirable, but a leader must know the times they are in. They must be effective in their current reality. Barbara Tuchman noted that a bad leader is not “deflected by the facts.”

You might be a bad leader if you lack self-control. Leaders are not a superset of human beings. Leaders have impulses, desires, and needs, just like everyone else, but when we fail to control our impulses, we most often get in our own way and derail our leadership. We lose credibility as followers expect—and rightly so—leaders to put the needs of the group above their own. Of course, there are impulses that are merely a distraction for others, and then there are impulses that destroy us and hurt those around us. We must exhibit self-control for the sake of ourselves and others. Leaders who lack self-control take themselves down.

You might be a bad leader if you think the ends justify the means. By crossing one too many lines, we put ourselves on the road to unethical and even evil behavior. This failure of leadership is based in self-interest. It’s self-serving. Leaders are rightfully judged by their results but not at any cost. This toxic mindset is most often gradual, and when tolerated in an organization it begins to infect all decisions and diminishes everyone involved.

You might be a bad leader if you lead by fear. This kind of leader exerts a high degree of control. It also leads to incompetency as the organization can never rise above the leader themselves. In the end, the whole organization is incompetent. Good leaders must know what they don’t know. As Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

You might be a bad leader if you have a lack of respect for others—for just being people. A lack of respect manifests itself in being unkind, dismissive of the opinions and needs of others, controlling others, or showing partiality because of status or importance. We respect others when we are curious about them and listen to them.

You might be a bad leader if you fail to see beyond ourselves. As leaders, we are responsible not only to the people we lead but to all of those affected by our leadership. It is a failure to do the right thing—to not do right when it is in our power to do right.

You might be a bad leader if you lack the competency for our job. This doesn’t mean stupid. It’s about skills. Do we have to skills to move forward in the areas we have been tasked to lead?

You might be a bad leader if you lack emotional intelligence. Leaders must be aware and sensitive to others and importantly, how their leadership is experienced by others. This implies the need for honest and candid feedback and daily reflection. Our ego creates blind spots, so we must always keep our ego in check. This is where humility comes in. A good leader leads themselves first.

We must be able to recognize the signs of bad leadership so we can deal with it before it undermines us. These mindsets come up time and time again because they are common to humankind. We can’t change that. None of us are immune. Sticking our heads in the sand won’t help. Only by recognizing them when we see them in our own leadership we can effectively deal with them.

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12 Rules of Respect What Are Good People

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:32 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development


Lessons in Leadership to Last a Lifetime

Lessons from Charles Leiserson

AFTER 18 YEARS on the MIT faculty, I thought I knew a thing or two about leadership. After all, I was tenured and had supervised dozens of students seeking undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. But in 1999, at the height of the Internet boom, I took a two-year leave of absence to serve as director of system architecture at Akamai Technologies, an MIT start-up located here in Cambridge. That position humbled me and taught me lessons about leadership that I still use today, some 20 years later.

Back then, the vast majority of Akamai’s 100 engineering staff had been recruited directly from MIT and other top universities. Like me, most had only worked in academia up to that point, and we assumed our corporate roles and responsibilities with anticipation and a healthy dose of swagger. What could possibly stop this juggernaut of collective brilliance?

Well, one collective deficit could, and did: The lack of effective leadership.

You see, despite their immense talent, our teams were completely dysfunctional. Within weeks, people started to feel disgruntled, and then even worse—angry, jealous, vindictive. Morale sunk, and our productivity did, too.

Fortunately, Akamai’s VP of Human Resources, Steve Heinrich, recognized what was happening and brought in Chuck McVinney, a management consultant with expertise in teamwork and leadership training. Chuck began teaching the engineering leaders about topics we had never been exposed to before: situational leadership, dealing with diversity and conflict, providing effective feedback, fostering creativity, and how to build a motivated team that leverages individual talents. Remarkably, after only two off-site workshops, our teams started to function better. We were able to focus and work collaboratively toward our goals.

The workshop content wasn’t complicated, but if you’re currently running a research lab, odds are, you’ve never seen it. That’s because academia and other research organizations rarely offer leadership and management training—and as a result, far too many engineers and scientists waste their time and resources dealing with unproductive interpersonal issues and unnecessary conflict. To help right that wrong, here are five the most important lessons I learned while at Akamai, all of which I continue to use in my lab today:

Research is a human endeavor
There’s no sense in denying, or ignoring, it: Human nature plays a role in everyday technical work. As a researcher, you simply must value and respect the interpersonal relationships that form the foundation of teamwork.

Know thyself
Senior researchers become better leaders once they understand how they perceive situations and why they react the way they do. Self-assessment exercises, interactive activities, and other tools can help you gain these insights and leverage your strengths.

Mental diversity strengthens teams
If you want your work to have the widest possible impact and be the most meaningful, you need to draft teams of diverse thinkers and then ensure everyone can contribute in a complementary way. This is the best way to pressure test and improve ideas. Of course, as a team leader, you will need to be equipped with strategies to manage such a variety of styles and temperaments.

Communication is key—and it involves effort
It’s too easy for senior researchers to become isolated from more junior colleagues. Make it a point to keep the lines of communication open, so that team members feel free to speak to you about day-to-day operations. Regularly checking in with one another keeps everyone on the same page and enables you to handle small issues before they evolve into bigger problems.

To keep leading, keep learning
Good leaders continue to learn and grow into their roles. Becoming a tenured professor or otherwise moving up the organizational ladder without participating in management training along the way can reinforce ineffective habits and create blind spots regarding performance.

It’s been about 20 years since I returned to MIT from Akamai, and businesses now routinely spend billions of dollars per year teaching employees “soft” leadership skills like the ones I just listed. If universities and other research organizations would invest even a fraction of that, their labs would be a more enjoyable place to work and their teams would be more creative and productive.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Charles Leiserson. He is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at MIT. He is lead instructor of the annual MIT Professional Education course, “Leadership Skills for Engineering and Science Faculty,” which has educated hundreds of faculty at MIT and around the world in the human issues involved in leading technical teams in academia. He was formerly Director of Research and Director of System Architecture for Akamai Technologies and was the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Cilk Arts, Inc., a start-up that was acquired by Intel in 2009. He is currently a Fellow of four professional societies: ACM, AAAS, SIAM, and IEEE.

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Mechanical Shark John Hennessy on the Leadership Journey

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:04 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Leading Forum


11 Shifts Every Leader Needs to Make


TO GET FROM where we are to where we want to be requires a shift in our thinking. When our thinking shifts in an area, our perspective changes, and new opportunities become visible. We serve people differently.

In Leadershift, John Maxwell states, “every advance you make as a leader will require a Leadershift that changes the way you think, act, and lead.”

Shifts in thinking require that you see a bigger picture, rethink your perspective, and understand your context. Your leadership potential depends on these shifts.

It’s is unlikely that you would make all of these shifts at once. Some will happen gradually. Some will happen almost overnight. Some will come naturally to you and others will seem counterintuitive. We’re all different but we all need to make these shifts. Essentially they all boil down to making the shift from me to we.

Maxwell suggests eleven leadershifts that have helped him grow as a leader. Here are a few ideas from each of the leadershifts he describes:

Leadershift #1 Soloist to Conductor – The Focus Shift

You can’t do it alone. Leadership is not a solo practice. Of course, working with others has its challenges. A big part of this shift is changing your focus from receiving to giving. Adding value every day without keeping score. “As leaders, we must stop wishing and start working. Instead of looking for the ‘secret sauce’ of success, we must start sowing seeds of success.”

Leadershift #2 Goals to Growth – The Personal Development Shift

Rather than focusing on goals, focus on growth. “Goals helped me do better, but growth helped me become better.” Begin on the inside. “Growth on the inside fuels growth on the outside.” You can’t do everything, so focus on four areas: attitude, developing strong relationships, your leadership, and equipping others to carry on without you. To become more growth-oriented, you need to embrace change, be teachable (humble), learn from failure, connect with other growth-minded people, believe in yourself, and understand that real wisdom is acquired and applied over time.

Leadershift #3 Perks to Price – The Cost Shift

Great leadership isn’t about control, the income or the corner office. It’s about sacrifice. Great leadership costs us something. American missionary Adoniram Judson is rumored to have said, “There is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice, it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success, it is because someone will succeed after you.” Great leaders go first. “What sets great leaders apart from all other leaders is this: they act before others, and they do more than others. Great leaders face their uncertainty and doubt, and they move through it to pave the way for others.”

Leadershift #4 Pleasing People to Challenging People – The Relational Shift

You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But if you want the best out of people, you have to challenge them. “You have to put doing what’s right for your people and organization ahead of what feels right for you.” This means keeping your eye on the big picture. Sometimes you have to have tough conversations, but you must balance care with candor.

Leadershift #5 Maintaining to Creating – The Abundance Shift

Maintaining isn’t always easy, but it is the easiest mindset to slip into. It’s not about change for change sake, but it’s about “can we do better?” Create a creative environment where people gather ideas and value multiple perspectives. “Being inflexible and sticking to my plan put a lid on me and my organization.” Larry Stockstill said, “I live on the other side of ‘yes.’ That’s where I find abundance and opportunity. It’s where I become a better and bigger self. The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity. So I try to say ‘yes’ whenever I can.”

Leadershift #6 Ladder Climbing to Ladder Building – The Reproduction Shift

This shift is about equipping others. We being with ladder climbing (How high can I go?), then we shift to ladder holding (How high will others go with a little help?), then ladder extending (How high will others go with a lot of help?) to finally, ladder building (Can I help them build their own ladder?). “If you want learners to follow directions, you only need to provide the what. If you want them to lead others and give directions, they must also have the why.”

Leadershift #7 Directing to Connecting – The Communication Shift

You must learn to connect with people to be the best leader you can be. To move from directing people—talking, ready answers, your way—to connecting—listening, asking, empowering. Be a person people can trust. Lift others up. “When you interact with others as a leader, what is your mindset? Is your intention to correct them or connect with them?”

Leadershift #8 Team Uniformity to Team Diversity – The Improvement Shift

If everyone around you thinks like you, you need to expand your network. A diverse team will fill in gaps in knowledge, perspective, and experience. “Malcolm Forbes said diversity is the art of thinking independently together.”

Leadershift #9 Positional Authority to Moral Authority – The Influence Shift

Moral authority is not about position it’s about who you are. People follow moral authority before they follow positional authority. Maxwell lists four areas a leader needs to develop to have moral authority: competence, courage, consistency, and character. “Every leader who possesses moral authority has had to stand alone at some point in time. Such moments make leaders.”

Leadershift #10 Trained Leaders to Transformational Leaders – The Impact Shift

Maxwell believes that if you only make one shift in your leadership, this is the one because it “will bring the greatest change to your life and the lives of those around you.” Transformational leaders inspire others to become more. But that’s because they have worked to become more themselves. “If you want to see positive changes in your world, the first person you must change is you. As leaders, you and I have to be changed to bring change. We teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are.”

Leadershift #11 Career to Calling – The Passion Shift

This is the shift from just doing a job to do what you are gifted to do. Aristotle wrote, “Where our talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies our vocation.” Your calling is not about you. “A calling moves us from the center of everything in our world to becoming the channel through which good things come to others.”

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5 Levels of Leadership Artistry Unleashed

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:30 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Thinking


Scaling Leadership

Scaling Leadership

THE INEVITABLE CONSEQUENCE of leading in an increasingly complex world is that we will have developmental gaps in our leadership. As our context change, we have to grow with it.

In the words of Robert Anderson and William Adams, authors of Scaling Leadership, “We are running an Internal Operating System that is not complex enough for the complexity we face. This is our Development Gap.” We are often pushed to our limits. The solution is to scale our leadership.

Leadership must learn to scale itself, but not any kind of leadership will do. We need much more of the kind of leadership that is capable of scaling innovation, adaptability, sustainability, agility, and engagement as its growth strategy. Scaling leadership is about becoming the kind of leader that scales the conscious leadership capable of creating what matters most of all the stakeholders it serves.

So just what is this “conscious leadership?” To answer this question, they asked 50,000 leaders and employees worldwide, “What kind of leadership, if it existed, would enable the organization to thrive in its current marketplace and into the future?”

The answer is displayed in the Optimal Leadership Circle Profile below. The top half of the circle are the 18 Creative Competencies that lead to leadership effectiveness. The bottom half is comprised of 11 Reactive Tendencies. These are our go-to strengths and behaviors we rely on when we feel under pressure. The reactive tendencies often get the job done but at a cost—disenchanted and disengaged employees and stakeholders that feel bullied or let down.

Scaling Leadership Leadership Circle Profile

In order to scale your leadership, the right conditions must exist. First and foremost, we have to consciously move our leadership from reactive to creative. Also a Generative Tension or Strategic Intent must exist as leaders take responsibility for and establish a development agenda for themselves and their organization. Finally, as represented by the top half of the inner circle, four more conditions must exist: Relating or Deep Relationship, Self-Awareness, and Authenticity or Radically Human, Systems Awareness or Big Picture, and Achieving or Purposeful Achievement.

How do you show up as a leader? Creative? Reactive?

In their study, High-Creative leaders consistently demonstrated the following 10 strengths. Interestingly, the first four represent the areas with the highest leadership gaps—areas where leaders need the most work.

  • Strong People Skills and Interpersonal Capability: Caring, compassionate, big-hearted; respects people, connects well with others and makes them feel valuable.
  • Good Listener: Attentive and present when people are presenting their views.
  • Team Builder: Unites, engages, and supports the team’s efforts. Builds involvement and consensus, supports team members, and advocates for team initiatives.
  • Leads by Example: Good role model. “Walks the talk.”
  • Visionary: Communicates a compelling vision of the future that fosters alignment. Knows and sets strategic direction and business plans that allow teams/organizations to thrive.
  • Personable / Approachable: Accessible, available, open-door, friendly, likable, easy to work with, and good sense of humor.
  • Passion and Drive: Shows passion, enthusiasm, drive, and a strong commitment to the success of the organization and to personal success.
  • Develops People: Shares experience and provides mentoring, coaching, career planning, and development experience to ensure growth and development.
  • Empowers People: Shares leadership and encourages people to take ownership, find their own solutions, make their own decisions, and learn from mistakes. Trusts people’s ability and their willingness to follow the direction provided.
  • Positive Attitude: Optimistic, upbeat; has a can-do attitude.

It’s not surprising that these were the most strongly endorsed strengths. People perform better when respected and your leadership is perceived as better when you are respectful. As Bill Adams father told him growing up, “How you get results is as important as the results themselves.” It’s easy to forget in a world where the end seems to justify the means.

In the authors consulting work they have found that when leaders derail it’s because while they are very talented, they are highly reactive. They underuse their High-Creative strengths. Often what got them where they are, is no longer working in their new leadership context.

Their research indicates areas that all leaders need to consider and develop where necessary. But of course, simply following a list is a bit simplistic. Or to say because I am relational, I’m a better leader. Because I’ve got good people skills, I’m naturally effective. We all come to leadership with strengths and weakness. Learning to honestly face where you need work and where you need to temper your strengths, is the sign of a great leader. Scaling leadership is a good place to begin the journey.

In conclusion, the authors state that there’s more. Creative Leadership alone isn’t going to get the job done. “No matter how you cut it, we are up against a level of escalating complexity and disruptive change that requires, and will continue to require, an unprecedented level of innovation, adaptability, scalability, sustainability, resilience, collective intelligence, engagement, empowerment, agility, systemic thinking, and global cooperation.”

What we need they term Integral Leadership “supported by a Self-Transforming Internal Operating System in some depth.” That’s to say we are no longer leading for ourselves but for a purpose larger than ourselves that comes through in everything we do. It means we go deeper to develop our character—who we are.

We no longer sponsor change in the organization, we radically, humanly, and in deep relationship lead change from the perspective that the system is mirroring the function and dysfunction in us, individually and collectively. We project our shadow less and less, and therefore, we can engage conflict without reactively making the other into an enemy or adversary. We experience others as much like us, a work in progress, and we engage in dialogue from a place of listening, learning, compassion, and strength.

Humility. Empathy. Faith. Grace.

We are more alike than different. Integral leadership sees through our differences “to a deeper unity that we all share—that we all are. We are all each other.”

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You can learn more about the Leadership Circle Profile and take your free self-assessment on the Leadership Circle website.

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Humble Leadership What Happens Now

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:16 AM
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Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back

What Are Your Blind Spots

THERE ARE THINGS we believe that when we really think about them, we might find that they are not helpful. We might think of them as blind spots that adversely affect our leadership effectiveness.

In What Are Your Blind Spots? Jim Haudan and Rich Berens hope to help you uncover five common leadership blind spots by exposing the underlying assumptions behind the consequences we see played out over and over again in all types of organizations.

This is how they lay it out:

Leadership Blind Spot #1: Purpose

The Misconception: Purpose matters, but it doesn’t drive our numbers.

The Basics: While there was a time when employees were only paid to complete a specific set of tasks, there is way more to it than that today. Many leaders are starting to embrace the concept of purpose but fail to actually run their businesses in a purpose-driven way.

An organization primarily focused on the hitting the numbers is a push mentality. To focus on the purpose is a pull strategy. A firmly ingrained purpose has the power to pull the numbers we are seeking. At the same time, it is nimble and responsive to changing circumstances as it is attached to a point of view and not a procedure. They note:

Organizations with a strong purpose at their core are more likely to be able to change when they truly need to. They will view their current operating model and customer offerings as merely a means to achieve their larger purpose and should, therefore, be able to change direction more easily when market forces require a more radical shift.

Leadership Blind Spot #2: Story

The Misconception: We have a compelling story to tell that people care about.

The Basics: Most organizations have a semigeneric vision statement, accompanied by what seems like too many slides to outline their strategy for what winning looks like for the organization. Leaders believe that they have a compelling story to tell, but when seen through the eyes of the employee, the complete opposite is often the case.

If you have a clear purpose, there is usually a good story behind it. Stephen Denning wrote in Telling Tales, “Analysis might excite the mind, but it hardly offers a route to the heart. And that is where we must go if we are to motivate people not only to take action but to do so with energy and enthusiasm.”

The truth is that to reach the heart, you have to create a sense of adventure and a sense of belonging, while also outlining a meaningful journey where people can see how their contributions make a difference.

There are four components that contribute to creating a compelling story:
1. Having a vision statement that is a great headline to your story
2. The quality of the strategy story that supports your vision
3. Your ability to share your story effectively as a leader
4. Achieving shared meaning of your story by your leaders

Leadership Blind Spot #3: Engagement

The Misconception: Rational and logical presentations engage the hearts and minds of people.

The Basics: In many organizations, a tremendous amount of money is spent creating strategies to win. Those strategies then get communicated using PowerPoint presentations, road shows, or town hall meetings—but things seemingly get stuck. Employees fail to connect with the strategy, leaders are frustrated about the lack of progress, and managers just try to hold the ship together.

We can’t present our way into the hearts and minds of people. The authors suggest that we connect with others with relationships that inspire hope.

We contribute disengagement and stifle inspiration. Through authentic conversations, we can co-create with our employees. “We simply suggest,” they write, “that leaders repeat their own personal thinking journey with their people.” Invite people to co-think with you.

Inviting your people to help you solve the problems of your business begins with leaders believing in the immense creation capability of their people. Shifting your thinking from “I am the creator, and my people are the implementers” to “I know this business well, but so do my people, and I can learn from them if I really listen” will transform your organization.

Leadership Blind Spot #4: Trust

The Misconception: People will not do the right thing unless you tell them what to do and hold them accountable to do it.

The Basics: Companies want and need to deliver great service to differentiate themselves, and the common belief is that the best way to deliver this is to create tight processes, scripts, and routines that minimize variability—to hold people and their behaviors to a strict policy and uniform standards. But that approach will never create consistent yet unique, differentiated, and personalized experiences that lead the market.

With the first three blind spots exposed and conquered, trust becomes much easier. People know what to do and why they are doing it. Rigid controls are counterproductive, and standards become easier to maintain. They become agents of the vision. To this point:

People must believe it’s their store, their hotel, their office, their factory, or their hospital. They must feel that they’re more than a cog in a wheel with overseers watching and waiting to catch them in a screw-up.

They note, “It’s the job of the leader to invite that uniqueness to be a part of the work experience every day.” That only happens when we stop controlling our people and trust them and their judgment.

Leadership Blind Spot #5: Truth

The Misconception: My people feel safe telling me what they really think and feel.

The Basics: In many leadership teams, what people really think often gets discussed in the hallways and bathrooms and by the watercooler rather than in meeting rooms. People don’t feel safe telling the truth because they don’t think it is smart or safe to do so. Many leaders believe that to be effective and successful, they need to be smarter than the next guy, fight for their area of the business, and not show vulnerability. This mentality creates a lack of trust, collaboration, and common ownership for a greater goal—and ultimately greatly slows down execution speed.

I think it is safe to say the people don’t always feel comfortable speaking truth to others especially superiors. For any leader, it’s safer to assume that they don’t and make a conscious effort to create a culture where people will feel safe to come to you with the truth even if it’s just the truth as they see it. Humor helps to break the ice.

Truth is a critical blind spot that can create an environment of poor decision making mixed with a significant lack of trust and disengagement in your organization.
If you don’t make the effort to allow truth to guide your teams, the true problems of your organization and the best ideas of your employees will remain buried in the hearts and minds of your people.

What Are Your Blind Spots? is a short but well thought out book. Inside you will find an assessment to help you see where you stand on each of these issues as well as exercises and tools to help you conquer each of them.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:56 PM
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5 Distinguishing Traits of High-Performing Leaders

Leadership Skills that Inspire Incredible Results

WHO WE ARE speaks louder than what we say. Respect for others is the cornerstone of high-performing leaders. Respect is demonstrated daily through skills that we can all learn and make a part of who we are.

Through his experience as an executive coach, Fred Halstead has defined in Leadership Skills that Inspire Incredible Results, seven skills that when practiced yield meaningful results. You may not be an expert at all but you can get better at every one of them.

Demonstrating respect is more about asking the right questions than being ready with answers. Halstead admits though that “asking questions—in particular, questions than can inspire clearer thinking, solutions, and action plans—is challenging, especially when we are used to just telling others what we know should be done.” But to succeed we must have teams that are self-reliant, who understand their purpose and can execute on that purpose. Asking questions and guiding requires real focus.

It’s about our team’s success. “Those who truly want others to excel are the ones who also achieve the greatest personal success.” To demonstrate respect and quip others we need to practice these skills with others:

1. Become a Fully Connected Listener

Listening shows respect and appreciation. Listening must come first. It requires patience. As Fran Lebowitz observed, “The opposite of talking is waiting.” Our natural desire to talk, judging others, our biases ego, and our business, all inhibit our inclination to listen. “The less we worry about appearing smart, the smarter we will appear to be by just listening and asking smart questions.”

Listening is easier when we are curious. It’s easier too when you know and believe in your purpose for listening. More than just gathering information, “when you listen to someone, you learn how that person thinks, which provides insight into how you can use them most effectively on a project, team, or in the organization.”

Listen for intent and observe body language. Much of what you need to know is communicated in this way. Respect others by taking a breath. “When we’re great listeners, we give others the gift of silence. We’re not in a hurry, so silence—time to think—gives the speaker the opportunity to formulate and express her best thinking.”

2. Ask Powerful Questions

When you ask questions, you become more engaging and it creates bonds with others. It means they will want to listen to you.

The right questions are important. “The right question is often a crystallizer. It helps put a bow of clarity around one’s thoughts.” It can help them to articulate their own thoughts and expand their thinking. Clarity questions are “What concerns you most about this?” “If there is one thing you could do to begin to resolve this issue, what is it?” “What are your instincts telling you?” Timing matters when you are listening. Ask when you need clarity.

Great questions open the door to additional thought. “Is this the solution?” opens the door to additional thought but closes the door on the conversation. A better question would be “If there is one thing that would make this solution better, what is it?” Halstead helpfully provides examples of powerful questions to achieve specific goals.

The response, “I have not thought about that” is one of the best you can receive from your questions. You’re giving the other person the opportunity to think about new solutions in a positive way. You also show respect for the person being asked the question.

3. Develop Other’s Best Thinking

Great listening and questions lead others from “I don’t get it” to “I got it.” You bring out the best in others. “By helping others grow, you give them the opportunity to take ownership of their actions and the results.” That’s leading.

Be forward-thinking—solution-oriented. “When leaders focus on what can be done, people are inspired to achieve more, especially when they think of and articulate what it is that they are going to do.”

One of the best ways to inspire your team to follow you because of you rather than in spite of you is to acknowledge the things they do well. More than a compliment, by acknowledging someone you are “calling attention to a specific behavior or talent, and it comes without any type of extra modifiers.”

4. Wise and Thoughtful Delegation

Delegating demonstrates that you believe in others and they often respond by “expanding their ability to do more and perform at a higher level.”

As a leader, the more you put everyone in the sweet spots of their talents, including you, the greater the likelihood of achieving short- and long-term exceptional performance. Delegating wisely both develops and uses those talents

Thinking we are can do it better, impatience, a lack of trust, a lack of clarity about the job to be done, all inhibit our desire to delegate tasks. And that’s on us.

5. Create Consistent Accountability

A culture of accountability means that people will do—actually accomplish—what they say they will do when they say they will get it done. Accountability builds trust.

What often holds us back from creating a culture of accountability says Halstead, is that we what to be seen as nice. But when seen properly, accountability is nice. Accountability builds others up. Like delegating, we think we could do better and so we don’t hold people accountable. But when we do, we might learn from how they achieve the desired result. And frankly, we lack faith in others. We don’t really believe they have what it takes to get the job done properly. If this is the case, Halstead recommends that we walk them through the process so they can see what it will take to get the job done. Also, remind them of the talents they have that will be useful in accomplishing the task.

These five skills, when practiced consistently will help to inspire incredible results. The thread running through them all is “as you respect others and put the interests of others in a paramount position, our personal success thrives, maybe in ways that you could not imagine.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:25 PM
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Leading Matters: John L. Hennessy on the Leadership Journey

Leading Matters


S A PROFESSOR, an entrepreneur, the president of Stanford University, and now the Chairman of the Board of Alphabet (Google’s Parent company) and Director of Knight-Hennessy Scholars, John Hennessy has had a lot of leadership experience. In Leading Matters, he shares the stories of what worked and what didn’t work.

Leading Matters is about the journey. The stories he tells here are revolve around the ten elements that shaped his journey and how he relied on these traits in pivotal moments. The elements are relevant to any leader at any level. As he observes, the higher up you go the crises just get bigger and come faster.

He begins by discussing the foundational elements: humility, authenticity, service, and empathy. He then links them together with courage. Finally, he shows how collaboration, innovation, intellectual curiosity, storytelling, and creating change that lasts, helped him reach his goals.

Here are some of his thoughts on each element extracted from his stories:


A true sense of one’s own skills and character—arises not from ego, but from humility. Arrogance sees only strengths, ignores our weaknesses, and overlooks the strengths of others, therefore leaving us vulnerable to catastrophic mistakes.

Leading with humility means letting others announce your accomplishments because you don’t need to, it means realizing and openly admitting that your understanding might not be right, it means taking the opportunity to learn from mistakes, and it means stepping up to the moments that challenge and grow you.

Authenticity and Trust

Authenticity is essential to building trust. Consider the wisdom popularly attributed to Socrates: “The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” It’s a start down the path to a deeper practice of authenticity—you must identify those good and true characteristics you admire, and then you must work to embody them.

So this is part of the practice: identify the virtue you admire, strive to embody them, and be humble about the journey—you probably aren’t there yet. In fact, just when you think you’ve arrived, life has a way of returning you back to the beginning.

Leadership as Service

The larger one’s leadership role becomes, the bigger the role of service in that leadership.

If you take a leadership role as a step toward a personal goal of gathering ever-greater titles, awards, and salaries, you will never see true success in that role.

Recognize the service of others. As a leader it is easy to get wrapped up in big projects and ambitious initiatives, and, in the process, to forget the smaller, but no less important, individual acts of service taking place all around you. Much of that service supports and enables the widely celebrated success of others.


Empathy should always be a factor in making decisions and setting goals. Empathy represents a crucial check on action—placing a deep understanding of and concern for the human condition next to data can lead to decisions that support the wellbeing of all.

Empathy usually implies compassion and perhaps charity, but we are looking for more than that: we are looking for the kind of empathy that changes people as a result of their interactions with each other, the kind of empathy that arises when one sees the world anew through someone else’s eyes.


Humility, authenticity, empathy, service-mindedness—these characteristics shape a leader’s vision and chart a course toward right action. Courage, on the other hand, compels a leader to take that right action. While many people can discern what is right and true, acting on that discernment is more difficult.

Even if risk-taking is against your nature, for the good of your organization, you must find the courage to practice it.

Collaboration and Teamwork

Most significant endeavors will be accomplished by a team.

Certain ground rules circumvented interteam rivalries. First of all, I reminded everyone of our shared goal: we wanted to achieve something great. Further, to support innovative, cross-disciplinary thinking, I set a second ground rule: at the start, we don’t criticize ideas. To this, I added a third ground rule: tough questions aren’t only allowed, they are necessary. This led to my final ground rule: team members must be treated with the utmost respect.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation with students: the student opens with, “I want to create a start-up.” I ask them to tell me about their technology, and they answer, “Well, I don’t have it yet, but I want to do a start-up.” I remind these students that great start-ups begin with great technology discoveries. Innovation presents great opportunities for smart entrepreneurs, not the other way around.

Intellectual Curiosity

Beyond personal enjoyment, though, this lifelong curiosity has served me well in my career. It has enabled me to engage in meaningful dialog about the world and its future.

Literature, biographies, and histories—they’re like laboratories in which we can examine and learn critical lessons without having to live the difficulties ourselves.

In challenging moments, great leaders show their true character. …Their stories taught me if you can’t take the blame for failure, you shouldn't take the job.


If you really want to inspire a team to action, best to engage them with a story. Once they become receptive—once they can imagine themselves as part of your vision—you can back your story up with facts and figures.

When you turn that dream into a vivid story, you make it so attractive and so real that people will want to share it with you by joining your team.

When it came time to respond to change, these companies moved quickly and efficiently, because every employee already understood the company identity and therefore knew how to respond without direct coaching.

In every profession and career, as we climb to higher leadership positions, the role of facts and data decreases.


Instead of worrying about my legacy too much or too early, I’m choosing now—as I always have—to follow the path of making meaningful contributions.

Legacy means the institution serves people more effectively now than it did when you arrived.

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Anwar Sadat Learning to Lead Williams

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Six Essential Practices to Grow Your Leadership

Leaders Handbook


HE Harvard Business Review has enlisted the expertise of Ron Ashkenas and Brook Manville to create the Leader’s Handbook. The context of leadership has changed, but the fundamentals of leadership have not. It is still working with people. And that has never changed.

It is in this spirit that the authors state, “the best way for any aspiring leader to succeed and to navigate turbulent times is to tune out the noise and refocus on these fundamentals” of leadership. They define leadership as “Achieving significant positive impact—by building an organization of people working together toward a common goal.”

The Harvard Business Review Leader’s Handbook is designed to help you grow your leadership. It is organized around six practices. While not meant to be all-encompassing, these are areas that “differentiate those who have the strongest impact.” Naturally, an understanding of human nature—the so-called soft skills—makes these six practices exploitable. The six practices are practical and provide a useful guide taking responsibility to lead and improve your effectiveness.

Building a Unifying Vision

Organizational success requires a bold and compelling vision that brings people together and inspires them to achieve extraordinary results. The vision needs to be exciting, clear, and simple—and stakeholders should be involved in its creation.

Developing a Strategy

Implementing a strong, measurable strategy is the key to realizing a vision. A great strategy is composed of key actionable choices about what to do, and what not to do to create distinctive value. Strategies are iteratively developed in the context of the company’s audience, challenges, and opportunities.

Getting Great People on Board

Smart and dedicated people help bring strategies to life. Executing strategies skillfully begins with recruiting, developing, and retaining high-performing talent. People need feedback to grow and incentives to feel recognized.

Focusing on Results

The experience of achieving short-term results motivates teams to strive for even more. Setting high expectations and sharpening accountability is necessary for high performance. Sold metrics and reviews can help this process become an organized one.

Innovating for the Future

Balancing current performance while investing for tomorrow is a key for enduring success. By keeping an eye on the demands of the future, leaders can continually drive innovations that will reshape the company to keep up with a changing world.

Leading Yourself

In order for leaders to lead others, they need to know and grow themselves. Feeling healthy, energized, and balanced also helps leaders do their best work. Leaders need to raise their own bar—in turn they’ll raise it for their organization.

Grasp the Leadership Opportunity Already In Your Reach

The authors make a good point. You shouldn't wait to be anointed a leader. Step up and take the responsibility now.

Seizing the leadership opportunity and making the leadership difference in fact requires courage and also an ability to look beyond the every day and near-term tasks of basic management.… To be a leader, you need to anticipate like a great chess player who looks ten moves ahead and also quickly adjusts to the opponent’s play.

This doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore the current challenges of your organization and focus only on the future. On the contrary, your customers, clients, employees, investors, and partners are all counting on you to keep your eye on the present and ensure that you’re doing what’s needed to get results.

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What Happens Now? A Look at 7 Reasons Leaders Stall

What Happens Now


HE ABILITY TO REINVENT YOURSELF is core to your success as a leader. The ground is shifting under your feet. The only way to stay relevant and therefore effective is to invest in building your skills as a leader.

As you take on more responsibility, the demands on you as a leader change. If disrupting yourself isn’t part of who you are, you will get left behind. If you are just doubling down on what you’ve always done, you will miss the opportunities. When conditions change, you have to change too.

That’s why John Hillen and Mark Nevins wrote What Happens Now? to help you remain a leader. “If we are to generalize, we can say that you advance as a leader, the technical and tactical skill you need—distribution expertise, for example—pale in comparison to the strategic and interpersonal.”

Complexity Skills and Sophistication Skills

They divide leadership capabilities into two groups: complexity skills and sophistication skills. Complexity skills are often what got you in the door. Complexity skills are those abilities that help you to deal with complexity “in a traditional-management-centered way, such as knowing how to design and implement processes and systems, and having the required technical and functional knowledge.”

Sophistication skills are behavior and mindset related. They are about changing how you do what you do. “How you pull back and understand the bigger realities of the job. How you approach doing the job having done so. How you think and behave so your people eagerly receive your leadership. Getting the how right is the challenge when it comes to sophistication.”

Too often, we don’t look at ourselves when we run into problems. We look around and ask what’s wrong with them. Warren Bennis and James O’Toole wrote, “Most of us wear the concrete shoes of our earlier successes.”

We tend to focus on and fall back on Complexity skills rather than grow and develop our Sophistication skills. Complex challenges are easier to wrap your mind around. You can measure them. Sophistication challenges are not as clear. They can be more painful as they get into more personal aspects of who you are as a person. But distinguishing between the two challenges is critical.

Our leadership stalls when we try to use tools for solving complexity issues when we “need to develop the capabilities to lead in a more sophisticated way.”

Complexity challenges, which often come with growth in scale, can make your job bigger in ways you can’t anticipate. Sophistication challenges, which usually come with change in kind, make the job broader in ways you don’t anticipate. If you’re like most leaders, you’ll display more comfort with complexity and decidedly less comfort with sophistication.

Responding to increased levels of sophistication demands that you do something much harder. You must fundamentally rethink how you spend time, where you focus energy, how you communicate, with whom you develop relationships, and how you look at the big picture to understand when, where, and how to act.

Leadership Skills

As you rise as a leader, sophistication skills take on greater importance. What are the new capabilities on which your leadership success will depend? More importantly, which skills that you value today should you deemphasize—or resist exercising at all? No matter how good your complexity skills are if you fail to access your sophistication skills by regularly challenging yourself as to what and how you do what you do, you risk stalling as a leader.

The authors identify seven inflection points that can trigger a stall in your leadership.

Purpose Stall
When you fail to create an organizational story that delivers meaning and purpose
To escape this stall, you must assess whether you are inspiring people with a meaningful story about the organization’s mission. You then must craft a narrative that carries your people forward on an inspirational, shared, purpose-based quest—a story that can guide their actions when you are not there to give specific direction at every new turn.

Teamwork Stall
When you can’t align your team to deliver high performance as one
You have to assess your effectiveness in aligning your team’s priorities as well as your own critical role in creating a high-performing team. You then utilize time-tested tools to straighten out misalignment and bind people together into a true “A-team.” Become more inclusive and focused on alignment and accountability.

Stakeholder Stall
When you can’t amplify your influence among important stakeholders
To deal with this stall, you begin by assessing who holds power in your universe of internal and external constituencies and how you can engage them to achieve your desired outcomes. In turn, you “lift and shift” your influence to stakeholders you don’t control but who will pave the way for your future success. Develop the ability to persuade and influence rather than control.

Leading Change Stall
When you struggle in your ability to explain and lead change
Determine how readily employees and stakeholders receive and embrace your messages about change, and then offer new behaviors and practices for engaging people, so they grasp, welcome, and act on your initiatives. Combine empathetic understanding with discernment, creativity, and determination.

Authority Stall
When your authority slips in the eyes of followers
Assess your own sources of leadership authority and invest in your own self-development. “Why would anybody want to follow you?” Build behaviors that will inspire people to follow you based on trustworthiness, empathy, breadth, balance, and gravitas.

Focus Stall
When you fail to focus your time and energy to have the most impact
Anticipate this stall by examining how you allocate your time and energy. Learn how to divide your focus among “do,” “manage,” and “lead” tasks and mastering the perennial secret to high-powered leadership—a commitment to delegating. What should you be doing and what should you let others do?

Leadership Development Stall
When you can’t develop your own leaders or prevent them from failing
The most crucial and most often overlooked stall is overcome by assessing your leadership talent and committing to coaching and developing new leaders as your main job. Become a leader of leaders, multiplying your own leadership success through the success of others.

What Happens Now? is a great look at some of the most critical issues in leadership. The authors walk you through each of these stalls to help you overcome or avoid them. Of course, self-awareness is key here—understanding the impact you have on others. Elevate your view and understand where you are and determine where you need to be. They call for a three-part approach: become more aware of what’s changing in your environment, know where you are, and then act deliberately to develop capabilities that will change your behaviors and thinking.

Every stall is an opportunity for growth. When you deal with each stall head-on, “you position yourself to evade the pain and consequences of being caught in future stalls. When you ask yourself, ‘What happens now?’ you’ll be ready to answer: ‘I will look inside, see myself as others see me and as they want and need me to be, and act to remake myself.’ You won’t blame your troubles on your organization or people, or ask, ‘How do I change the institution to overcome these challenges?’ You’ll see yourself as part of the slowdown. And then you’ll be ready to become you own ‘Best Leader Ever.’”

This is not a process of abandoning the complexity skills that got you where you are, but instead adding to and developing “your leadership repertoire with a new set of executive capabilities, mindsets, and behaviors” to help you to overcome the new challenges of sophistication that will come your way.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:00 AM
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Didn't See It Coming

Didn't See It Coming


HERE ARE SEVEN key life challenges that every leader will face to one degree or another. Any one of them has the potential to derail even the best of leaders. But here’s the thing. While they may creep up on us, we can see them coming and apply the proper antidote.

Carey Nieuwhof is the author of Didn’t See It Coming. He wrote this book because too often we don’t. And even though these seven challenges never really go away, we can create some life habits that keep them at bay.

Nieuwhof writes from a been-there-done-that Christian perspective about the issues as they manifest themselves in our lives and follows up each one with a chapter on how to combat it. It’s not really just for leaders. These issues affect everyone and some you'll find hit close to home.

The seven challenges are:

Disappointment and frustration often end in cynicism. “Most cynics are former optimists.” He reminds us that cynicism is a choice that benefits no one. “Cynics never change the world. They just tell us why you can’t change the world. Ask them and they know all about it.” The antidote is curiosity. “Curious people are never cynical, and cynical people are never curious.” Simple but profound.

The little compromises we make every day—the half-truths, the rationalizations, the excuses— “create a gap between who we are and who we want to be.” We often look to competency to carry us to success. It may get us in the door, but character is what determines how far we go. “If you don’t nurture your character daily, you can be most admired by the people who you know the least, while the people who know you best struggle with you the most.” Our character gets challenged every day. The antidote to compromise is to “work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency.”

Nieuwhof notes that technology doesn’t create disconnection, it just reveals what is already going on inside of us. “Disconnection is a human problem. Technology just makes it worse.” So the solution is to deal with what is going on inside of us. “When you search for an explanation as to why you have a hard time trusting or opening your heart to people, you can make progress. You’re using the past as a stepping stone into the future, not as a barricade against it.” Engage in life-giving conversation. Eliminate hurry from your life. And this comment could pull any of us up short:

For me, the sense that a conversation is going nowhere always carries with it an underpinning of judgment and even arrogance on my part. I just assume I’m better, smarter, or wiser or that I have greater emotional intelligence than others. Which, of course, should drive me right back to my knees in confession. After all, we’re encouraged to think of others as better than ourselves. That’s a cornerstone habit of the humble.

Irrelevance happens when what you do no longer connects to the culture and the people around you. That gap is a factor of how fast things change relative to you. You defeat it by continuously “changing, learning, and evolving. Change staves off irrelevance.” A key idea here is you need to “love the mission more than the methods.” An easy trap to fall into. Get radical about change. Surround yourself with younger people. Seek change to transform you.

Pride manifests itself in many different and subtle ways so it’s hard to spot—in ourselves. “Pride will snuff out your empathy, stifle your compassion, create division, suffocate love, foster jealousy, deaden your soul, and make you think all this is normal.” The only way to deal with pride is to cultivate humility. “Learn the ways of the humble and make it your principal way of operating.” Nieuwhof offers practical ways to begin to make this happen in your life.

Burnout saps the meaning and wonder out of life. Signs of burnout include among other things: your passion fades, you no longer feel your highs and lows, little things make you disproportionately emotional, everybody drains you, nothing satisfies you, and your productivity drops. Getting out of this state begins by admitting it and then figuring out how to live today so you will thrive tomorrow. What does that look like? “Maintaining health in all five major areas of life (spiritual, emotional, relational, physical, and financial)” must become a priority. Nieuwhof recommends some concrete steps you can take to bring you back from burnout. Go deep enough and take enough time to recover so that you begin to feel gratitude for the process.

Ironically, success often makes you feel empty. Once you have arrived, “you find there’s still something inside you that says there has to be more.” The antidote: “find a mission that’s bigger than you.” He continues, “Selfishness looks good only to the selfish in the same way that pride is attractive only to the proud. Humility will win you what pride never will: the affection of others. And that’s exactly what selflessness will do. Other people naturally gravitate toward people who live for a cause beyond themselves.”

Didn’t See It Coming is full of understanding and insight. The practical advice found here will benefit anyone on their leadership journey.

Nieuwhof Chart


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Asset Based Thinking Attitude Of Wisdom

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Servant Leadership in Action

Servant Leadership

HROUGH THE PAGES of Servant Leadership in Action, we get a clearer picture of what servant leadership is and isn’t. Editors Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell have collected some good essays on the subject.

Ken Blanchard begins by telling us that some people think you can’t lead and serve at the same time. But that is because they don’t understand that there are two parts to servant leadership: a visionary/direction, or strategic role—the leadership aspect of servant leadership and an implementation, or operational role—the servant aspect of servant leadership. “The leadership aspect of servant leadership is the responsibility of the traditional hierarchy. The servant aspect of servant leadership is all about turning the hierarchy upside down and helping everyone throughout the organization develop great relationships, get great results, and, eventually, delight their customers.”

Raj Sisodia is a leader in the Conscious Capitalism movement and relates servant leadership to the acronym, SELFLESS: Strength, Enthusiasm, Love, Flexibility, Long-Term Orientation, Emotional Intelligence, Systems intelligence, and Spiritual Intelligence. He explains, “The servant leader is a whole person, not a fragmented being. SELFLESS reflects a harmonious blend of mature masculine and mature feminine qualities.”

Steven R. Covey says that trust is essential. “Both servant leadership and trust-based leadership stand in opposition to traditional positional leadership, which is steeped in the language of control: ‘You have to do what I say because I’m the boss.’ On the other hand, servant leaders and trust-based leaders alike draw from a deeper well of meaning. They serve first and they extend trust first. Leadership is the by-product and positional authority is, at best, an afterthought.”

Mark Floyd admits, “Servant leaders are not always perfect, but they stay true to their leadership style. They stay humble by turning the organizational chart upside down and serving others. They communicate to their teams the goals and values that form their culture so that everyone stays in focus. They are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses—through feedback and by following the greatest servant leader of all time [—Jesus]. And they continually strive to do the right thing.”

Simon Sinek adds, “The daily practice of servant leadership is less grand than people tend to think. It is not based on a series of transactions, but on the promise of being there when someone needs you most. … A leader who offers money or the potential for future riches is not earning loyalty. They are setting up a transactional relationship that is likely to promote self-interest. … A few scattered, well-intentioned actions by a leader can’t hurt, but they won’t breed loyalty. They won’t be enough to earn trust. Just like any relationship in which trust is the basis, it is the combination of a lot of little things that makes all the difference.”

To avoid the triggers that would pull you off course, Marshall Goldsmith recommends that the next time you run into a conflict, ask yourself this question: “Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?”

Erwin McManus illustrates that servant leadership is not a technique but a way of being. After his wife watched him perform a reluctant act of service for a homeless man in a downpour, she said, “That was the greatest sermon you have ever preached.” Those words changed his life. He writes, “Frankly, I had always hoped my greatest message would be to an audience of thousands, not to an audience of one. Now I know better. Our message is always given to an audience of one—the person we are serving. In serving others, our message is our lives. We must live our message for our message to have life. To me, that’s what servant leadership is all about.”

To McManus' point, Jon Gordon adds in his essay, “My company’s mission is to inspire and empower as many people as possible, one person at a time. One person at a time means we will never be too busy to help one person in need.”

In other essays by Brené Brown, Cheryl Bachelder, Henry Cloud, Jon Gordon, James Kouzes, Patrick Lencioni, Dave Ramsey, Art Barter, Larry Spears, and many others, you will find many more helpful ideas and thoughts that will help you shape and refine your leadership approach.

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The 3 Mental Qualities of Great Leaders

Mind of Leader

EADERSHIP BEGINS in the mind. To lead effectively we must understand what is going on inside of us, so that we can lead ourselves. Only when we have developed a consistent habit of doing that can we then better understand and lead others and then collectively our teams and organizations.

In The Mind of the Leader, authors Rasmus Hougaard and Jaqueline Carter of the Potential Project, report that there are three mental qualities that stand out as being foundational for leaders today: Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion. They call it MSC Leadership. All three work together and enrich the others.

MSC Leadership


Mindfulness is about managing your attention and in turn managing your thoughts. Mindfulness enables us to respond to our circumstances instead of reacting. The two key qualities of mindfulness are focus and awareness. These two qualities “help us to be mentally agile and effective.” “As your mindfulness increases, your perception of ‘self’ starts to change. More specifically, a stronger sense of selfless confidence arises, helping you develop the second quality of MSC Leadership: selflessness.


They describe selflessness as “the wisdom of getting out of your own way, the way of your people, and the way of your organization to unleash the natural flow of energy that people bring to work. Selflessness combines strong self-confidence with a humble intention to be of service.” It is interesting the way they put that.

Selflessness is often thought of as weak by the uninitiated. It is important that selflessness is combined with self-confidence. You become an enabler. “You are not worried about being taken advantage of, because you have the confidence to speak up for yourself if needed. At the same time, you’re not driven by your own interests. You have a strong focus on the well-being of your people and your organization.”

This is a tough one for many leaders. According to a study completed at the University of California, Berkley, “when many leaders start to feel powerful, their more benevolent qualities start to decline. Leaders are three times more likely than lower-level employees to interrupt coworkers, multitask during meetings, raise their voices, and say insulting things.” Also, they are more likely to be rude, selfish, and unethical. We have seen many leaders that think they are above the mores of everyone else. It’s not easy to keep yourself in perspective. Mindfulness plays a big part in that.

As we become more selfless, “we naturally begin attending more to other people: we show more interest in them and offer more care. In this way, compassion arises as a natural outgrowth of selflessness.”


Compassion is benevolent leadership. “It’s the ability to understand others’ perspectives and use that as a catalyst for supportive action.” Compasion combines with wisdom. Wisdom gives compassion a compass so that choices can be made that are thoughtful and holistic.

A compassionate organizational culture “supports positive intentions toward others, and at the same time instills the wisdom and professionalism in everyone to make tough choices. This includes sometimes doing things that are difficult bit will benefit the culture and the organization in the long term.”

MSC Leadership begins with you—inwardly—and then flows outward to your people and then your organizational culture as a whole. “It requires that we take an unflinching look at ourselves, at how we interact with our people, and at how our organizations operate.” The Mind of the Leader looks at this whole process and provides practical methods to apply each of these three qualities of mind to your leadership. This book provides a well-articulated and comprehensive look at these essential qualities of leadership.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:10 PM
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The Little Kindnesses Matter


RESIDENT WILLIAM MCKINLEY would often informally invite confidants to the White House to review the day's business or discuss the problems of the days ahead. Charles Dawes was often one such guest. In Portrait of an American: Charles G. Dawes (1953) by Bascom Timmons, he quotes from Dawes diary about one such gathering:
He was considering the appointment of a minister to a foreign country. There were two candidates. The President outlined their qualifications, which seemed almost identical. Both were able, experienced, honest, and competent. Each was equally entitled to preference from a political standpoint. Then he told this little story, an incident apparently so unimportant that, except for its consequences, it never would have been told, an incident so trivial that the ordinary man would have forgotten it. But McKinley was not an ordinary man.

The President said that years before, when he was a member of the House of Representatives, he boarded a streetcar on Pennsylvania Avenue one stormy night, and took the last seat in the car, next to the rear door. An old and bent washerwoman, dripping wet, entered, carrying a heavy basket. She walked to the other end of the car and stood in the aisle. No one offered her a seat, tired and forlorn as she looked. One of the candidates whom the President was considering—he did not name him to us—was sitting in the seat near which she was standing. He was reading a newspaper, which he shifted so as not to seem to see her, and retained his seat. Representative McKinley arose, walked down the aisle, picked up the basket of washing, and led the old lady back to his seat, which he gave her. The present candidate did not look up from his newspaper. He did not see McKinley or what he had done.

This was the story. The candidate never knew what we then knew, that this little act of selfishness, or rather this little omission of an act of consideration for others, had deprived him of that which would have crowned his ambition of perhaps a lifetime.
Dawes relates this lesson:
We never know what determines one's career in life. Indeed, it may be these little-forgotten deeds, accumulated, are the more important factors; for it is they which must, in many cases, provide us with the opportunity to do the greater deeds, and we unconscious of it. Why comes this reward in life? Why that disappointment or failure? We cannot know with certainty. This we can know, however, and this story illustrates it: There is no act of kindliness, however small, which may not help us in life; and there is no act of unkindness, however trivial, which may not hurt us. More than that: The habitual doing of kindness always adds to our happiness, for kindness done is duty performed. Unkindness always breeds an unhappy spirit, for unkindness is duty neglected.
Malcolm Forbes once said, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

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3 Strategies to Prepare Your Millennials for Their Leadership Roles


ANY EXPERIENCED LEADERS predict a skill and experience crisis at the management level due to the vast numbers of retiring Baby Boomers. They may have cause for concern. Estimates from multiple sources project that Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce as early as 2025. The question you need to answer is, “Do you have Millennial leaders who are ready to take over and fill the voids left by your experienced Baby Boomers?”

Consider these three action steps as you prioritize Millennial leadership development.

1. Boost Accountability by Strengthening Character

A lack of determination and resilience, low accountability and, a know-it-all attitude were some of the character concerns raised by 270 business owners and CEO’s who participated in our Millennial Survey.

Our sales force development work also indicates that 60% of sales professionals often play the blame-game. They adamantly inform management that the reason they aren’t hitting their numbers is due to the economy, the competition, the weaknesses of their company, or a combination of all of these. This externalized perspective is futile. It robs the complainer of their growth potential. How can we be proactive in developing strong character in our up-and-coming leaders?

Take action:
  • Mentor emerging leaders on character-based issues. This includes taking personal responsibility, developing determination, knowing how to do what is right over what is easy, being trustworthy in all areas of life, and being accountable for their choices.
  • If your up-and-coming leader is playing this game of externalization, challenge him or her to think more constructively. When they focus on leveraging their internal skills, strengths, and resources, finding creative solutions becomes easier.

2. Build Confidence by Leveraging Strengths

Some Millennials believe they possess an unlimited well of knowledge just because they are able to find the answer to just about any question on Google or YouTube. This phenomenon is validated by research.

Yale doctoral candidate, Matt Fisher, and his colleagues Mariel Goddu and Frank Keil, conducted fascinating research on this topic. They asked people a series of questions that appeared to be general knowledge but were actually difficult to answer. Some of the participants had access to the internet and others not. They published their findings in an article, “The Internet Makes You Think You’re Smarter Than You Are.” [Interview] They came to the conclusion that head knowledge lacks the deep roots of real-life experience that provides the confidence to stand in any storm and press through any obstacle.

Take action:
  • Use an assessment to enable your emerging leader to discover his or her strengths. The insights gained will build confidence and aid productivity, performance, and engagement at work.
  • Support your Millennial leader with personal mentoring to gain confidence. They will develop the ability to turn perceived failures into stepping stones to move forward and achieve greater business results.

3. Maximize Collaboration by Aligning Core Purpose

I was inspired when I first learned about the process, Life’s Core Purpose, developed by Jeff Pelletier. It is a powerful mentoring tool to help your Millennial leader get a deeper understanding of where they can create win-win synergy. Their best synergy is when their vision and values align with the company’s vision and values. Life’s Core Purpose process invites leaders to serve at the intersection of their core competence and core passion by asking: “Is there something I am personally great at all the time at a core level? And, is there something I care deeply about all the time at a core level?” The goal is to apply what we do well to what we care about deeply so that performance can accelerate!

Take action:
  • Guide your emerging leader to figure out which aspects of his job energize him or her. This knowledge helps them to discover their core passion.
  • Present your Millennial leader with opportunities to make a positive contribution to their community and to the world. It will enable them to align their personal and professional goals, and you will be rewarded with a highly motivated, dedicated, and focused employee.

Will you be left high and dry when your Baby Boomers retire? If you are concerned about filling the voids left by your experienced Baby Boomers, it’s not too late. Step up and take action to implement real-world, rubber-meets-the-road leadership development strategies. Prioritize time to transfer skills, knowledge, and experience to boost accountability, build confidence, and maximize collaboration in your up-and-coming leader so that your business will thrive even after your last Baby Boomer has retired.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Danita Bye. She is a member of Forbes Coaches Council, is a leadership and sales development expert and author of the new book, Millennials Matter: Proven Strategies for Building Your Next-Gen Leader.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:18 PM
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How to Avoid the 5 Career Derailers

Career Derailers


HY DO SOME careers stall while others flourish? The careers of one-half to two-thirds of managers and leaders will derail. “At some point, over half of us will get fired or demoted—or our careers will flat-line, and we won’t reach our innate potential.

In The Right—and Wrong—Stuff, Carter Cast shares with us the turning point in his career at PepsiCo. Blissfully unaware of how negative perceptions were shaped, he was stunned when called into his boss’s office, and told he was “unpromotable” because he was obstinate,” “resistant,” and “insubordinate.”

More often than not, people get fired, demoted, or plateau not because they lack the “right stuff,” but because they let the “wrong stuff” act out. Cast’s research led him to five defining archetypes. These archetypes are present across all organizations, genders, and levels of seniority.

Captain Fantastic

Captain FantasticThese people are human wrecking balls known for being insensitive, arrogant, dismissive and emotionally volatile. This archetype gets more people into trouble than any other. Captain Fantastic’s poor ego management results in behavior that is a combination of defensiveness, arrogance, lack of composure, being distrustful, being mischievous and colorful, and being passive. In short, they lack interpersonal skills. Cast relates a conversation he had with Stuart Kaplan, the director of leadership recruiting at Google to make this point:

As you progress [in your career], your relationship with others is more important than your knowledge of and relationship with data. This need kicks in as you move into middle and upper management. It’s a mindset change. You have to suppress your ego, let go of having the answer and embrace the relational world. It becomes less about having competencies and more about engendering trust.

The Solo Flier

Solo FlierThe Solo Flier is a strong individual contributor, but they have difficulty building and leading teams. They create problems for themselves by overmanaging which makes it difficult to build and lead an effective team. They communicate with others either verbally or nonverbally, “Step aside. I’ve got this.”

For many talented people “skilled in and rewarded for ‘doing,’ the shift to manager and leader is a hard one. We’re required to operate differently, getting work done through others, moving from athlete to coach. We need to move from ‘me’ to ‘we.’”

Version 1.0

Version 1These people are highly skeptical of change. “The second most common career stopper right behind poor interpersonal skills is difficulty adapting to change. Some research studies state that it affects over half of managers who derailed.” This can happen due to a simple fear of change or an inability to adjust to changes that have been made, or because they possess a rigid belief system. A Version 1.0 can think they are traditionalists when really they are closed-minded.

Version 1.0’s resist learning new experiences. They lack curiosity preferring the status quo. Agility in your personal learning is the “subtle skill of picking up on cues and changing one’s behavior quickly.” Cast recommends that Version 1.0’s become more approachable. “Some people’s fear of change can be masked as assured arrogance or by being a contrarian. They protect themselves by being rigid and aloof and acting with complete assurance. Then, when challenged with a contrary point of view, they become combative and aggressive, like Captain Fantastic.”

The One-Trick Pony

One Trick PonyOne-Trick Ponies are good at what they are good at becoming over time “one-dimensional and unpromotable.” They have become overspecialized thereby limiting their careers. They get “mired in the details associated with their signature skill area and have trouble seeing the big picture beyond their area of expertise.”

This archetype is not strategic. That is, they lack a holistic understanding of the organization. “People with a strong strategic orientation approach problems from an ‘outside-in’ perspective.”

The Whirling Dervish

Whirling DirvishThese people are out of time. They just don’t seem to have enough time. They struggle with converting ideas into action. They lack good planning, organizational and task management skills and therefore don’t deliver on promises. This can also be because they have a problem saying “no.”

Whirling Dirvish’s need to be in tune with the steps in “the work flow process—their proper sequence, how long each will take to complete, and whom to include along the way.” This includes being able to plan and prioritize tasks before a project is started. Say no when you have to and delegate task to keep things moving.

Having the Right Stuff

To avoid derailing, you must learn to lead yourself first. We all come close to derailing from time to time, but having the right stuff means that you have the “ability to bounce back, to learn from your mistakes, make adjustments, take corrective actions, and get back on track.”

Cast finds that people with the right stuff act on their own initiative, they have emotional intelligence, and have tremendous perseverance and drive for results. And of the three, taking the initiative is the most important. “High performers with the right stuff accelerate their personal and professional development be having a ‘learning orientation’—a curiosity to constantly learn and improve.

Avoiding derailing requires that you continuously reflect on your performance. Know where you want to go and understand where you are. Then take steps to bridge the gaps. Cast provides abundant examples of the archetypes and corrective measures for each. We are all a work-in-progress.

Carter Cast provides an assessment on his website to find out where your career is vulnerable.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:17 PM
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Leadership Forged In Crisis

Forged In Crisis


EADERSHIP development is a very personal endeavor. The better you become, the better your leadership becomes.

It is a misconception of leadership that if you engage in the best practices of a great leader, you will become that leader. Applying the idea that if I do this or if I have this quality I will become a great leader like my chosen mentor, can derail your leadership development.

That said, there are principles you can discover that if adhered to will propel you in the right direction. Harvard professor Nancy Koehn illuminates some of these principles for us in Forged in Crisis as seen through the lives of five exemplary leaders: polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, President Abraham Lincoln, legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Nazi-resisting clergyman Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and environmental crusader Rachel Carson. These principles set the stage for leadership effectiveness, but the decision to step into leadership is yours alone.

Koehn borrows from David Foster Wallace and defines an effective leader as one “who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better, harder things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.”

Coach Tom Landry said it this way: “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” Henry Kissinger said, “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been." It is intentional influence. But the ability to do that doesn’t come to us naturally. We have to work at it. But that’s good news. We can all get there. Leaders are not born, they are forged.

Each of the leaders Koehn has chosen faced an uncertain outcome in the midst of a crisis. Shackleton was marooned on an Antarctic ice floe trying to bring his men home alive; Lincoln was on the verge of seeing the Union collapse even as he tried to save it; escaped slave Douglass faced possible capture while wanting to free black Americans held in slavery; Bonhoeffer was agonizing over how to counter absolute evil with faith while imprisoned by the Gestapo; Carson raced against the cancer ravaging her to finish her book Silent Spring, in a bid to save the planet.

The crisis that can break one person can give birth to leadership in another. It’s a conscious choice to lead. Koehn brings out key lessons common to these people as they struggled with their thoughts in what were do or die situations. Here are some of the lessons that we should all take to heart:

They Were Made, Not Born

These leaders “were made into effective leaders as they walked their respective paths, tried to understand what was happening around them, and encountered failure and disappointment.”

They Were Ambitious but…

“The drive to make their respective marks was important in shaping them. It took each of them some of the way. But then, interestingly, ambition ceased to motivate and influence them as it once had. As they discovered a larger purpose and embraced it, each found his or her impetus, strength, and validation in the mission itself.” And importantly, Koehn adds, that “their leadership was partly shaped by a willingness to subordinate personal drive in a broader end, one inexorably linked with service to others.”

They Did the Inner Work of Leadership

They all worked on themselves, looking for opportunities to grow. “They did not do this as a single endeavor, but rather as a lifelong project in which they each kept working on themselves, learning specific lessons, developing more resilience, and using these resources to lead more effectively.”

(“Lincoln would have been flummoxed by talk of authentic leadership when he told a few constituents in 1862 that he did not have the luxury of publically expressing his disappointment about Union army defeats.”)

They Understood the Importance of Solitude

These leaders learned to detach themselves from the situation in order to see things from different perspectives. They “learned how to step back from a specific instant, assess the larger landscape, take the measure of their own emotions, and only then make a decision about what, if anything, they wanted to do.” Reflection and solitude helped them stay focused on the big picture.

They Learned to Manage Their Emotions

In dark moments, what Bonhoeffer called a “boundary situation,” they determined to manage their emotions. It was not willful blindness or forced optimism. They knew what they were up against. “Because they did, they used their emotional awareness and discipline to concentrate directly, almost exclusively, on how to move forward, how to take the next step, however small.” These people realized that “the emotional penetrability they experienced and that caused them so much suffering was also a door into new insights about themselves and new ways of being in the world.”

They Learned to Respond Rather Than to React

“At times, doing nothing at all was the best action each of these leaders could take. Time and time again as president, [Lincoln] refused to be goaded by the force of his own emotions or of those around him into taking precipitate action that might compromise his larger mission. Even when he was at his most frustrated, he managed somehow to acknowledge his feelings without acting on them in a way that was destructive to larger matters.”

They Were Resilient

Though these leaders didn’t always see a way through in the heat of the moment, “they vowed to find a way through the obstacles they confronted. They came out the other side of calamity without falling through the floorboards of doubt, without giving up on their mission and themselves.”

All five leaders were well chosen because of their humanity. They were not born leaders. They became leaders through successes, but mostly through failures and mistakes. Leaders can come from anywhere. As we look around the world today, if we are looking for larger-than-life heroes, we misunderstand what leadership is.

Although these leaders appear to be larger than life to us now, as you read their stories you see that they are you and me. They are ordinary people in turbulent and trying circumstances. They were often overwhelmed and depressed, but they kept moving on. What distinguishes these people from many of the leaders we see today is their approach to the experiences of their lives. Throughout their lives, they purposefully extracted the lessons they needed to grow. It was thoughtful and intentional. If you go through life any other way, you are just collecting experiences to no end. Experiences alone ensure nothing. We must reflect on them to gain insights and learn from them.

All of the lessons these leaders learned are relevant to any leader in any situation. There are no hacks to effective leadership, and you won’t find them here. You will find well-told accounts of these leader’s lives that will inspire and inform your own leadership.

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5 Leadership Lessons I Learned by Walking the Camino de Santiago

Victor Prince

HE Camino de Santiago is a network of ancient hiking paths that all lead to a shrine to St. James in northwest Spain. I first walked that trail – 435 miles over 29 days – in 2013 and have returned twice since. My passion for discovering new hiking trails was what drew me to the Camino, but the lessons from the Camino are what keep me going back. Here are five of those lessons that have helped me become a better leader.

1. Welcome Help
When you walk for a month, you inevitably get lost. In one little village, three older gentlemen sitting in a shady spot outside the little café jumped and pointed me in the right direction when I took a wrong turn. I realized that they were sitting there specifically to help direct lost hikers. It was their pastime. That experience taught me that welcoming help from others was not just about the specific piece of help I received when I asked. It also made the person helping me feel good and be invested in my success. Ever since the Camino, I have vowed to be more welcoming of help from others, at work and beyond.

2. Learn from the Past
When I decided to walk the Camino, I eagerly jumped into the planning. I plotted out a 29 day itinerary that optimized my distances per day and found a bed I could reserve each night. That exercise took days, tapped my analytical skills, and resulted in a large spreadsheet that I was proud to show off. That is until I realized that I had recreated the same itinerary that several guidebooks had already figured out. People have been walking the Camino for over 1000 years. Instead of taking a step back to see what I could have learned from others who went before me, I plunged right into the task. Since the Camino, I am more thoughtful when I start a new project to look for lessons from the past.

3. Think About the Future
Any trail that has remained popular for over 1000 years can teach us how to build longevity in our organization. One thing behind the Camino’s longevity is the ethos of the hikers who walk it to leave it better than they found it. Hikers generally don’t litter on the trail and pitch in where they can to keep the churches, hostels and facilities along the trail in good shape for hikers to follow. That same ethos is important for leaders. Leaders need to think about their successors as they make decisions in their jobs. Their goal should be to leave their role and team in a better position than they inherited it.

4. Don’t Judge Others
People from many different backgrounds from all over the world hike the Camino. Everyone dresses in much the same way while walking, giving few clues from their outward appearance about their background. Hikers learn to reserve judgment about others. Instead of silently critiquing others, hikers support each other as they go through the same difficult challenge of walking across a country. They may not know how or why another person got on the trail, but they know the shared challenges they are facing and simply focus on those.

5. Stretch Yourself
Walking across a country sounded like a crazy thing to do before I did it. By doing it, I gained self-confidence to do other bold things. Walking the Camino emboldened me to check off a goal that I had long thought was beyond my abilities – writing a book. While I was walking the Camino, I thought a lot about my career and the leadership lessons I had learned. I decided to write a book about those insights. That book, Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide their Teams to Exceptional Results (Career Press), was named a Top 20 Leadership Book of 2016. This week, my third book, The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain (AMACOM) comes out.

I recommend hiking the Camino to anyone who can. The combination of the physical challenge, the alone time for introspection, and the opportunity to meet people from around the world is a wonderful means of self-improvement. If you can’t walk the Camino, search for other experiences that provide those three elements.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Victor Prince. He is a leadership consultant, speaker, and managing director of the consulting firm DiscoveredLOGIC. He has 20+ years of experience in corporate and government leadership, including positions as COO of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, strategy consultant with Bain & Company, and marketing executive with Capital One. He holds an MBA in finance from the Wharton School. Prince can be reached at www.victorprince.com.

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Humility is the New Smart: Are You Ready?

Humility is the New Smart


MART used to be a quantity game. “I know more than you. I get more things right.” But Ed Hess and Katherine Ludwig say that in the new Smart Machine Age, that’s a losing game. The new smart is about quality. Specifically, the quality of your thinking, your listening, and your relating and collaborative skills.

Are you ready?

The Smart Machine Age (SMA) will revolutionize how most of us live and work. In Humility is the New Smart, the authors state that “smart technologies will become ubiquitous, invading and changing many aspects of our professional and personal lives and in many ways challenging our fundamental beliefs about success, opportunity, and the American Dream.” This means that the “number and types of available jobs and required skills will turn our lives and our children’s lives upside down.”

New skills will be needed. Uniquely human skills. Those skills, while uniquely human, are not what we are typically trained to do and require a deal of messy personal development. We will need to become better thinkers, listeners, relators, and collaborators while working to overcome our culture of obsessive individualism in order to thrive in the SMA. Humility is the mindset that will make all of this possible.

Most of today’s adults have had no formal training in how to think, how to listen, how to learn and experiment through inquiry, how to emotionally engage, how to manage emotions, how to collaborate, or how to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities.

In short, say the authors, we need to acquire and continually develop four fundamental NewSmart behaviors:

Quieting Ego

Quieting Ego has always been the challenge for us humans. As they observe, “Even if we don’t consider ourselves part of the ‘big me’ cultural phenomenon, for many of us to feel good about ourselves we have to constantly be ‘right,’ self-enhance, self-promote, and conceal our weaknesses, all of which drive ego defensiveness and failure intolerance that impedes higher-level thinking and relating.” This tendency negatively affects our behavior, thinking, and ability to relate to and engage with others.

Managing Self—Thinking and Emotions

We need to get above ourselves to see ourselves impartially. We all struggle “to self-regulate our basic humanity—our biases, fears, insecurities, and natural fight-flee-or-freeze response to stress and anxiety.” We need to be willing to treat all of our “beliefs (not values) as hypotheses subject to stress tests and modification by better data.”

Negative emotions cause narrow-mindedness. Positive emotions, on the other hand, have been scientifically linked to “broader attention, open-mindedness, deeper focus, and more flexible thinking, all of which underlie creativity and innovative thinking.”

Reflective Listening

Because we are limited by our own thinking, we need to listen to others to “open our minds and, push past our biases and mental models, and mitigate self-absorption in order to collaborate and build better relationships.” The problem is “we’re just too wired to confirm what we already believe, and we feel too comfortable having a cohesive simple story of how our world works.” Listening to others helps to quiet our ego.


To create these new behaviors and mindsets, it should become obvious that we need to enlist the help of others. “We can’t think, innovate, or relate at our best alone.” As Barbara Fredrickson observed, “nobody reaches his or her full potential in isolation.” Jane Dutton out it this way: “It seems to be another fact that no man can come to know himself except as the outcome of disclosing himself to another.”

The NewSmart Organization

Optimal human performance in the SMA will require an emphasis on the emotional aspects of critical thinking, creativity, innovation and engaging with others. “The work environment must be designed to reduce fears, insecurities, and other negative emotions.

To do this it means “providing people a feeling of being respected, held in positive regard, and listened to. It means creating opportunities for people to connect and build trust. “It means allocating time and designing work environments that bring people together to relate about nonwork matters.” Finally, it means getting to know employees and helping them to get the “right training or opportunities to develop and provide feedback.”

The NewSmart organization needs to be a safe place to learn. “Feeling safe means that you feel that your boss your employer, and your colleagues will do you no harm as you try to learn.”

The New Smart

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9 Things Positive Leaders Do



ON GORDON is a prolific writer. He has written at least a dozen books on leadership that I am aware of. The Power of Positive Leadership summarizes much of his thinking and provides a great introduction to all of his other work. As a result, it is full of good practices and thinking.

Positive leadership is grounded in reality. We must confront the negativity we come across, but we shouldn’t dwell on it. We deal with it and move on. It is because we will have to overcome negativity, adversity, and problems that we should be positive. “Positive leadership is not about fake positivity. It is the real stuff that makes great leaders great.” Positive leaders focus on solutions.

Gordon cites psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s research that finds that “people who experience more positive emotions than negative ones are more likely to see the bigger picture, build relationships, and thrive in their work and career, whereas people who experience mostly negative emotions are more likely to have a narrower perspective and tend to focus more on problems.” Positivity doesn’t guarantee you will succeed, but it makes it much more likely. A positive mindset reveals possibilities and gives you the courage to take the actions required to move past negative situations.

Gordon explains nine things positive leaders do. Nine actions that will enhance your leadership capabilities and positively impact all of your relationship—your family, your friends and your team.

1. Positive Leaders Drive Positive Cultures

Culture is everything. A positive leader lives the culture because it is an extension of who they are. “They understand that every day there are forces seeking to sabotage their culture and success, and so they work relentlessly to keep it strong.”

“When you create a culture worth fighting for and invest in your people to the degree that they want to fight for your culture and for each other, your organization will have grit and strength to overcome the challenges you face and become an unstoppable and positive force.”

2. Positive Leaders Create and Share a Positive Vision

Former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ford Motor Company Alan Mulally, said, “Positive leadership—conveying the idea that there is always a way forward—is so important because that is what you are here for—to figure out how to move the organization forward.”

Positive leaders see and create a brighter and better future. They see “what’s possible and then take the next steps to rally and unite people to create it. Every invention, project, creation, and transformation starts with an idea, an imagination, and a vision of what’s possible.”

A positive leader needs a telescope and a microscope. The telescope helps to keep your eyes on the big picture. The microscope helps the leader to focus in on what needs to be accomplished in the short term to realize the vision in the telescope. “If you only have a telescope, then you’ll be thinking about your vision all the time and dreaming about the future but not taking the necessary steps to realize it. If you only have a microscope, then you’ll be working hard every day but set-backs and challenges will likely frustrate and discourage you because you’ll lose sight of the big picture.”

3. Positive Leaders Lead with Optimism, Positivity, and Belief

“Ultimately, being a positive leader is all about leading with faith in a world filled with cynicism, negativity, and fear.” We all face this battle between faith and fear. A leader’s job is to fill your people with faith.

How we respond to our world depends on the stories we tell ourselves. When you face adversity you can tell a positive story and then work to create a positive outcome. It’s always your state of mind and your thinking that produces how you feel and respond. When you see that the world has no power over you, you will lead more powerfully in the world.”

4. Positive Leaders Confront, Transform, and Remove Negativity

“Positive leadership is not just about feeding the positive, but also about weeding out the negative.” You must address negativity. Develop a culture where negativity is not acceptable. People will either change or leave.

A positive leader is more positive than the negativity they face. Every negative situation is an opportunity the strengthen your positivity. Don’t allow complaining unless one or two possible solutions are brought forward also. “Complaining causes you and your team to focus on everything but being your best.”

5. Positive Leaders Create United and Connected Teams

“Positive leaders unite instead of divide. They are able to create unity, which is the difference between a great team and an average team.”

It starts at the top. “As a positive leader, you must be a unifier and connector who fosters relationships between others.”

“You can be the smartest person in the room but if you fail to connect with others you will fail as a leader.” Also, “You may not have the most talented people on your team, but if you are a connected team, you will outperform many talented teams who lack a close bond.”

6. Positive Leaders Build Great Relationships and Teams

People first follow who you are. “Leadership begins with love.” Love your people. Build relationships first. Too many leaders share rules before they have first built a relationship. I’ve had many leaders tell me,” writes Gordon, “that when they focus less on rules and invest more in their relationships they experience a dramatic increase in performance, morale, and engagement.”

Positive leaders are also positive communicators. They smile. They spread positive gossip. They listen and welcome ideas. They rely on positive non-verbal communication. They encourage.

7. Positive Leaders Pursue Excellence

Not satisfied with the status quo, positive leaders pursue excellence. “How can I get better to make the world better?”

Positive leaders are humble and never stop learning. Pablo Casals, one of the greatest cellists of all time, was asked why he continued to practice the cello at the age of 95. He said, “Because I think I’m making progress.”

Positive leaders ask daily: “What do I need to know that I don’t know?” and “What do I need to unlearn to learn?”

8. Positive Leaders Lead with Purpose

Purpose fuels positivity. “Hard work doesn’t make us tired. A lack of purpose is what makes us tired. We don’t get burned out because of what we do. We get burned out because we forget why we do it.”

Have purpose-driven goals. “The truth is that numbers and goals don’t drive people. People with a purpose drive the numbers and achieve goals.”

9. Positive Leaders Have Grit

“When we look at successful companies and organizations, we see their current success and prominence but what we don’t see is the leadership and grit that powered them through all the failure and moments of doubt, heartache, fear, and pain.”

Positive leaders embrace failure and trust the process. “Leadership is knowing the critics will criticize you while still saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done.”

Positive leadership is a choice. Through great stories, Gordon encourages you to make a positive difference as a leader.

Positive Leadership

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How to Avoid Your Leadership Gap

Leadership Gap


HE GAP IN OUR LEADERSHIP arises as a result of the disconnect between how we think people are experiencing our leadership and how they are actually experiencing our leadership. And where we find that disconnect we limit or even derail our leadership potential.

In The Leadership Gap, Lolly Daskal addresses this gap—what it is, why it happens, and what we can do about it. The gap is always there but at some point, it comes the surface to sabotage us. What if we don’t know what we think we know?

The problem is that one day, suddenly, what once worked so well to propel their rise stops working. And the very same traits that had worked for them actually start working against them.

It is at this point that we need to begin asking ourselves some questions. “What is the gap between who I am and who I want to be, and do I know what it is I still need to learn?” In short, “Who am I being?” We need to rethink how our behaviors are perceived by those around us. And when there is that gap between how we want to be perceived and how we are actually being perceived, we need to take action. “Learning to recognize your leadership gap is the factor that determines your greatness as a leader.” Sometimes we overuse a strength and sometimes we drift into the shadow side of our strengths. Either way, an understanding of what drives can give us the insight we need to avoid our leadership gaps.

Daskal invites us to look at who we are being and the instincts that drive our behaviors. The “shadow” you. She has developed seven leadership archetypes to help us gain some clarity as to what drives our beliefs and therefore our behaviors. We aren’t necessarily one type as we tend to shift from one to another depending on the circumstances but “we tend to lean repeatedly toward the same archetype persona.”

The Seven Archetypes

rebelThe Rebel who is driven by confidence. “How can I push the envelope?” The gap is self-doubt. The gap archetype is The Imposter who is so insecure they play havoc with their mind because they have self-doubt. The key to the Rebel’s success is confidence, but self-doubt that often accompanies great success, undermines their confidence and they act out of the imposter syndrome. They undermine their leadership thus keeping them from achieving greatness.

explorerThe Explorer who is fueled by intuition. “What can I discover?” The gap is manipulation. The gap archetype is The Exploiter who manipulates every chance they get just so you will not know how powerless they really feel. The tendency for the Explorer is to use their intuition to manipulate others to gain control. Daskal notes, “Whereas intuition makes things better for others, manipulation is always about making things better for you.”

truthThe Truth Teller who embraces candor. “Where should I speak up?” The gap is suspicion. The gap archetype is The Deceiver who is suspicious about everyone because they cannot trust themselves to speak the truth. Discovering the truth and then speaking up for what is right is never easy but when we find we have been deceived, we can become paranoid and suspicious of others undermining our influence. We can become a kind of victim that will not speak up when we need to because of our paranoia.

heroThe Hero who embodies courage. “Where is courage needed?” The gap is fear. The gap archetype is The Bystander who is too fearful to be brave, too conservative to take a risk, and too cautious to take a stand. Once enabled by courage, they are now sidelined by fear. “Most of us not really afraid of being brave—we are afraid of what it takes to be brave. We are not really afraid of losing everything—we are afraid of what will happen when we have nothing.”

inventorThe Inventor who is brimming with integrity. “How can we make this better?” No matter what you do you will be “held accountable and responsible as people. Everything in business, leadership, and success is founded on the virtue of integrity—it is the force that leads the way.” The gap is corruption. The gap archetype is The Destroyer who is morally corrupt. While an Inventor puts their personal values into practice, if those values become corrupted, usually by forces such as ego, personal gain, or anger, they destroy the organization from within. The Destroyer advocates cutting corners, quick fixes and compromising quality and standards. “The Inventor maintains his or her integrity while thinking outside the box.”

navigatorThe Navigator who trusts and is trusted as they guide people to where they need to go. “How can we get to where we need to go?” The gap is arrogance. The gap archetype is The Fixer who a chronic rescuer no one trusts They want to help too much, fix too much and rescue too much. “Navigators have a way of making the complicated simple, and the simple understandable. They inspire trust. But their ability and confidence to know where to go and become an arrogance that attempts to control others—to do for others what they need to be doing themselves.

knightThe Knight for whom loyalty is everything and will stand beside you and will serve you before they serve themselves. “How can I serve you?” The gap is self-serving. The gap archetype is The Mercenary who is self -serving and put their own needs before those of the team, the business or the organization. Often the transition from serving to self-serving is subtle. “Loyal employees become disloyal one infraction at a time. Only after unfaithfulness shapes itself does the self-serving attitude emerge in a way it can be detected and deciphered.”

Daskal reminds us that understanding our weaknesses is our greatest strength. From these seven archetypes, we can see how each has powerful abilities and hidden impediments. By knowing the gaps we can get into we can better use our strengths to achieve our own leadership greatness.

Daskal explains each of these archetypes in detail and importantly how we avoid these gaps. She describes what the positive looks like and what the negative looks like with examples for each.

The Leadership Gap provides the antidote for leading on autopilot. Daskal provides insight into our behaviors and beliefs that can if not managed properly can derail even the most talented and successful leaders. Confronting and avoiding our leadership gaps is the key to attaining long-term leadership success.

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12 Reasons Better Leader 100X Leader

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:03 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development


9 Key Principles for Business & Life from Sam Zell

Sam Zell


ILLIONAIRE investor Sam Zell has put down on paper an account of the principles that guide how he does business in Am I Being Too Subtle?

He doesn’t claim to be self-made. He credits his parents with handing down to him values that have served him well in life. He is the son of Jewish immigrants who fled Poland in 1939 to avoid the Holocaust. “My parents were very disciplined and very focused on work and achievement, and they led by example.” His parents “never dumbed down the conversation for the kids.” Lessons were taught through examples and stories.

His parents provided Zell with a different perspective than his friends. They were given a bigger-picture orientation. As a result, he was “more comfortable standing apart” than he was trying to fit in. It was to be a defining characteristic of his life. “Conventional wisdom,” Zell writes, “is nothing more to me but a reference point.” But he notes, you can’t create your own playbook “unless you understand the rules of the game and play well within the lines. As long as you know where everyone else is, you can play the game.”

Below are nine of Zell’s key philosophies for how he approaches business and life:

1. Be Ready to Pivot
I never hesitate to pursue a new endeavor just because I haven’t done something similar before. I just use what I’ve learned that might cross over. I see myself as a frontline player, and that means being able to envision where demand is going to be, or where it won’t be—not just in the next five years but in the next twenty or thirty years. It means not sticking to assumptions that limit your opportunity. The fact is, I am eclectic, and the fun of my life is being able to gain access in new arenas.

2. Keep it Simple
I stay true to the fundamental truths: the laws of supply and demand; liquidity equals value; limited competition; long-term relationships. They offer a framework through which I view potential opportunity. Problem-solving is my passion. Breaking issues down to their barest elements, simplifying them. Finding the fulcrum. It’s something anyone can learn to do. After that, experience makes the difference—doing it again and again until it becomes distinctive. Experience builds discipline and insight that sometimes allows you to see over the abyss before you step into thin air. It’s being risk aware. It is a matter of organizing your thinking.

3. Keep Your Eyes (and Mind) Wide Open
I rely on a macro perspective to identify opportunities and make better decisions. I am always questioning, always calculating the implications of broader events. If there’s one consistent theme, it’s that I’m always on the lookout for anomalies or disruptions in an industry, in a market, or in a particular company. Recognizing the psychology of market extremes can lead to attractive points of entry. Any event or pattern out of the ordinary is like a beacon telling me some interesting new opportunity may be emerging. If you’re a seeker of information and a serious observer, it’s all there to be learned. But with today’s access to an overwhelming amount of information, most of it drivel, you have to focus on what’s meaningful.

4. Be the Lead Dog
In my businesses, I like to be the lead dog, to control the “scenery” in every industry I enter. It means not being less than number two in any industry, and referable being number one. If you’re not the lead dog, you spend your whole life responding to others.

5. Do the Right Thing
When you’re in it for the distance, you do it right. Ethics are a cornerstone. I have always known that success for me would be guided by principles. For that reason, there are some deal I just won’t do. Everything I do is predicated on the assumption that there’s another deal. And the way you get to the next deal is to lay it straight. Sometimes my team argues with me—they can’t believe we’re leaving money on the table. But I want to create an environment where everyone wants to keep playing.

6. Shem Tov – A Good Reputation
In everything I do, I’m consistent, and I’m never tempted to something that’s at odds with my name. In business, people always want to know who you are—in other words, will you do what you say, will you make a reliable partner? Reputation is your most important asset.

7. Prize Loyalty
I believe loyalty defines your character. Do you stick with your friend, colleague, or partner when it’s not easy? Do you consider their circumstances as much as you consider your own? As you can imagine, for someone in my position, loyalty and trust are priceless commodities. And they go both ways.

8. Obey the Eleventh Commandment
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Ego and pride have their places, but when they are not self-regulated, they can be detrimental, if not debilitating. But for me the Eleventh Commandment implies something more. Simply put, it’s being the first person to laugh at yourself. To me, the Eleventh Commandment acknowledges that we’re all human beings who inhabit the world and are given the gift of participating in the wonders around us—as long as we don’t set ourselves apart from them.

9. Go All In
The minute you acknowledge that a problem is insurmountable, you fail. If you just assume there is a way through to the other side, you’ll usually find it, and you will unleash your creativity to do so. I equate this fundamental truth with an entrepreneurial mind-set. It’s tenacity, optimism, drive, and conviction all rolled into one. It’s the commitment to get it done, see it through, make it work. In my world, I call that being an owner.

Zell advocates an owner/entrepreneurial mindset in business and life. “An owner is consumed with making the most out of what he already has. He’s all in. An entrepreneur is always looking for a new opportunity. He’s always reaching.” As he tells his grandkids, “Your responsibility is to maximize the skills you were given. But whatever you decide to do, invest everything you have in it—excel. What I’ve done is not the example I wanted to set; it’s the way I’ve done it that I hope you emulate, through focus, effort, and commitment.”

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William Donaldson Tireless

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:29 PM
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Be a Spark!



O co-authors Angie Morgan, Courtney and Sean Lynch, to be a Spark is to be a leader. “You must recognize yourself as a leader. Know the pathway to leadership development and commit yourself to it. You’re not chosen to be a leader. You choose to lead.” When you behave like a leader you become a Spark.

Sparks initiate action and create the conditions for success for themselves and others.

Knowing the pathway to leadership development is a personal development job. In SPARK: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success, they offer seven essential behaviors that every leader needs to develop. None of us are born leaders. These behaviors are not innate and take time to develop.


By gaining awareness of what you truly value, you can think and act in ways that allow you to direct your life and have influence over others. Leading with your own values is the gateway to leading others.


Credibility is the foundation of your leadership style. It forms the basis of trust. If people can’t trust you, you can’t lead them.


Sparks resist the powerful, human instinct to place blame. They seek to identify how their own actions, or inactions, have contributed to the situations in which they find themselves in.

Act with Intent:

By having a clear vision and making choices consistent with it, take actions that lead themselves — and others — towards it. Sparks differentiate themselves by having the discipline and the fortitude to execute, even when they aren’t sure what to do next.

Be of Service:

Sparks are always aware of others’ needs and take action to meet them. This outward focus strengthens relationships and creates camaraderie and connection. When people feel cared for because you’re serving them, they begin to feel safe and experience your commitment to them. They focus less on themselves and more on the team.


Your confidence level will determine the level of results you experience. Sparks don’t leave their confidence to chance. They consciously manage their internal thought process to achieve a level of steadiness as their sense of confidence rises. We can control our confidence.


Sparks set a high standard for consistency in their everyday work. To achieve it, they first need to understand the value of readiness, know what perseverance really means, and have the courage to “own” their time. Consistency is about being a “sometimes person” or an “always person.”

A chapter is devoted to each of these seven behaviors and conclude with practical suggestions on how to develop these qualities not only within yourself, but how to inspires others to begin their own Spark journey.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:26 PM
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Leaders Made Here

Leaders Made Here


HE NUMBER ONE REASON most companies do not have a leadership culture is their current leadership, writes Mark Miller in Leaders Made Here.

This occurs for a number of reasons: They don’t see the immediate need, they don’t understand how or are too busy to do it, they don’t walk the talk, and their own insecurities. Leadership cultures are built from the top down.

Miller describes a leadership culture is one where “leaders are routinely and systematically developed, and you have a surplus of leaders ready for the next opportunity or challenge.”

Leaders Made Here is the story of a typical organization that found themselves short when they needed more leaders to fill some gaps and what they did to create a leadership culture.

Frankly, a leadership culture does more than to have leaders in waiting. It provides for the growth and development of all people throughout the organization. It makes whatever you’re doing work better.

To create a leadership culture, Miller boils it down to five ongoing commitments:

1. Define it.
Forge a consensus regarding our organization’s working definition of leadership.

There’s certainly real power in a common definition of leadership; there’s even more power in a common leadership skill set.

2. Teach it.
Ensure everyone knows our leadership point of view and leaders have the skills required to succeed.

3. Practice it.
Create opportunities for leaders and emerging leaders to lead; stretch assignments prove and improve leaders.

We discovered that for most people—leaders included—the natural tendency is to avoid risk. So, when a new project would come along, the leader responsible would assign a seasoned leader regardless of opportunity. It did not matter what was needed; our existing leaders rarely gave an emerging or inexperienced leader a shot. This did nothing to help young leaders grow and develop in a real-world setting.

This does not mean we always give the next opportunity to the emerging leader. Sometimes, the seasoned leader is the right choice. However, because we recognize the power of The Opportunity, we are consciously working to provide it more often.

4. Measure it.
Track the progress of our leadership development efforts, adjusting strategies and tactics accordingly.

A scorecard should answer at least four questions: What is most important now? Is our performance improving or declining? What impact are our interventions having? And are we winning?

5. Model it.
Walk the talk and lead by example—people always watch the leader.

Leaders Made Here is not a bold initiative that comes and goes. It must become what the organization is. It has to become part of the organizational DNA.

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Leadership Gap Leadership Contract

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 PM
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Create the Target Before You Shoot the Arrow

Create the Target

SAW A CARTOON years ago in which Charlie Brown shot an arrow at a fence and then proceeded to draw a circle around the arrow. At some level, he found this satisfying. This is not how great leaders think.

Having just returned from our annual meeting with over 5,000 chicken people present, I am thankful we took the time to draw the target before we shot the arrow. We will see what the attendees have to say, but preliminary reports are positive. I think the event hit the mark.

Here’s the leadership lesson that comes to mind as I reflect on the event. One of the reasons it was a success—not the only reason, but one of them—is that we decided what we were trying to accomplish before we created the event. We drew the target BEFORE we shot the arrow.

I’m wondering how often, as a leader, we fail to clearly define the target. I think about all the times my leadership efforts have fallen short . . . how many of those failures can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to an unclear target or goal?

There are many things leaders CANNOT do for their people. However, clarity regarding intent should never be in short supply. People must always know what they are trying to accomplish.

The greatest gift leaders can give their people is clarity.

The power of clarity transcends targets, goals, and objectives – it includes vision, values, and strategic intent, as well as other tactical issues. But what we are trying to accomplish cannot get lost in the process.

Clarity enables alignment, and alignment is a prerequisite for performance.

When you identify the target with crystal clarity, I think you may be amazed at how often your team will hit the mark.

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Leading Forum
Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-Fil-A.

His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:22 AM
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Gratitude is Good for You Too

Gratitude is Good

WE KNOW GRATITUDE makes relationships thrive and makes trust possible. Gratitude encourages, clarifies, motivates, includes, and unifies.

When we show gratitude, people feel valued, they know what’s important, they want to do more, and they feel part of something bigger than themselves.

But gratitude is good for you too.

Gratitude puts you in the right mindset to lead. Gratitude and humility are interconnected. They reinforce each other. Gratitude says, “I didn’t do this alone.” French philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville wrote, The narcissistic leader or “the egoist is ungrateful because he doesn’t like to acknowledge his debt to others and gratitude is this acknowledgement.” A lack of gratitude is at the core of narcissism. We alone are not responsible for who we are and what we do and that is the essence of leadership. We are never truly self-sufficient.

In a practical way, gratitude provides guardrails in our life. Gratitude helps us to protect from ourselves. It is amazing how much gratitude plays into avoiding poor behavior and wrong thinking. Gratitude sets a boundary on our thoughts by making us mindful of others. It helps us to avoid going where we should not go because we are more self-aware.

Gratitude requires that we slow down and reflect. Gratitude is the basis of emotional intelligence. It puts other people first. It says you know and you care. While empathy has been found to be essential to leadership, empathy is not empathy if it is silent. It must be expressed.

Gratefulness helps to curb unproductive emotions such as frustration, resentment, and revenge. Studies have shown that it is an antidote to depression. It has the power to heal and move us forward.

It improves relationships and is a remedy to envy and greed. Instead of trying to strive with others we are thankful for what they do. It eliminates a leader’s tendency towards entitlement. Grateful people find more meaning in life and feel more connected to others.

In these changing and uncertain times, gratitude is a leaders ally. Gratitude looks at the long term and doesn’t focus on the present situation. Life is a continuum. Gratitude allows a leader to appreciate where they are and the resources they have at their disposal to face what life throws at them. A habit of gratitude gives us perspective. It doesn’t blind us to the negative but it facilitates a solution.

Gratitude can’t just be something we do is has to be who we are as a leader. More than a behavior it must come from the heart. It must be the mindset we lead from, manage from, and make decisions from. Gratefulness is grounded in reality because ultimately we must realize that everything good in our life is a gift.

Leadership begins and ends with gratefulness.

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Unconditional Gratitude Gratitude Noticing

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:34 AM
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Being a Responsible Leader

Being a Responsible Leader

THERE has always been a call for responsible leaders, but perhaps we just hear the call more clearly today.

Responsible Leader
In The Responsible Leader, author Tim Richardson begins with a well-written overview of how we got where we are in our leadership understanding and the forces that are shaping our leadership context today. It points to the need for more responsible leadership.

What is at the core of being a responsible leader?

What are the mindsets the shape the behavior of a responsible leader?

Richardson identifies four characteristics:

Internal Assuredness and Attractiveness

These leaders are confident but humble and their being—who they are—is attractive to others in the sense that they have a natural presence that engages with others and appeals to others at a deeper emotional level. “This is built on a real understanding and acceptance of one’s uniqueness—personality, motivations, strengths and weaknesses—and a confidence that means ‘I do not need to pretend to be someone I am not.’”

This is also demonstrated in consistent behavior. “A clear and established values and belief system also helps to smooth out irrational swings of behavior.” “Modern leaders need to be wiser than simply being caught up in the moment.”

Adaptability and Learning Orientation

We must be comfortable with not knowing and living with paradoxes. This means we must have a willingness to listen and learn—even from the mostly unlikely sources. Once we “know” something we tend to want to hear only from people like us—people who filter the world through the same eyes we do. And when we do, we miss a lot. “We become judgmental and evaluative rather than inquisitive.”

We also need to be confident and humble. When an inner confidence “is not balance with sober self-assessment or mature emotional intelligence, it becomes skewed and egocentric.”

This is more than intellectual learning, this is behavioral learning. We need to be able to connect what we (and others) are experiencing and connect it to what we know. When it doesn’t connect we need to dig deeper and learn from it. Unfortunately, “individuals may deny that the situation is any different and fail to notice that their normal patterns are proving unhelpful. They may succumb to a personal blindspot and fail to learn.”

Thinking and Operating Relationally

This is a major shift for most leaders. We tend to grow up thinking of leaders as independent of instead of interdependent with other people. More autocratic than co-creators. Responsible leaders view themselves in relation to others. “Those whose perspective of success relies on others’ success are becoming a stronger force than perhaps many realize.”

Purpose and Focus

Responsible leaders have a guiding purpose that enables them to focus their energy and activity. “Leaders with a strong driving purpose—that answers the ‘why am I doing this?’ question—need commensurate levels of focus to ensure that their dreams and visions do not remain out of reach. The question is: “Where do I need to focus my attention and my energy and therefore what are distractions to be avoided?”

Responsible leadership requires an “other” focus, humility and awareness. “To be a responsible leader is to step forward into the space and the moment with an ‘I can and I will’ mindset to impact situations and systems for the greater good.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:16 PM
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4 Keys to Finding Hidden Leaders in Your Organization

Hidden Leader
Jim Kouzes writes in the foreword of The Hidden Leader that “Our images of who’s a leader and who’s not are all mixed up in our preconceived notions about what leadership is and isn’t.” Well put. That is the issue.

He goes on to say that “hidden leaders are those people in your organization who share the belief that what they do matters.” And they are all around us.

The authors Scott Edinger and Laurie Sain have developed some key indicators for finding the hidden leaders in your organization or team. These people can be “defined, identified, nurtured, and encouraged to help an organization develop a competitive edge.” Some will accept a position and others will prefer to stay off the organizational chart, but all can drive excellence throughout the organization.

Hidden leaders display four key identifiers: they demonstrate integrity, lead through relationships, focus on results, and remain customer-focused no matter what role they have in the organization. Let’s look at them one by one:

Demonstrate Integrity. Edinger and Sain believe that this is the “absolute bottom-line requirement of hidden leadership.” It means a consistent display in thoughts and actions of a strong ethical code of conduct that is “focused on the welfare of everyone.” Their consistent adherence to their beliefs makes them predictable and therefore dependable. They have the courage to do the right thing even when it is difficult.

Lead Through Relationships. Leading through relationships is the basis of leadership. They get along with others and value others. They “lead and inspire because of who they are and how they interact with others.” They don’t depend on their position or lack of it to influence the actions of others.

Focus on Results. The hidden leader “maintains a wide perspective and acts with independent initiative.” They use the end to define the means, which can mean working outside of strict processes to achieve the end result. “They aim for the end they are supposed to produce” so “they feel responsible and accountable, not just for the demands of their jobs but also for successful outcomes for stakeholders involved.”

Remains Customer Purposed. This is different than customer service; it is an “awareness of how an action in a specific job affects the customer.” It is a big-picture focus and having a deep understanding of the value promise of an organization.

For some hidden leaders one characteristic may dominate and others may need to be fully developed, but a hidden leader who lacks integrity, isn’t a hidden leader. Any leader needs support from other leaders in the organization and a good leader will make a priority out of developing others.

Hidden leaders are easier to spot in flatter organizations and those that provide a greater number of areas to contribute. Listening to people at all levels is a big part of that.

By recognizing hidden leaders we help to create a culture that develops more leaders. The hidden leaders are there. It is a leader’s responsibility to discover and develop them.

The Hidden Leader contains worksheets and access to online resources to evaluate hidden leaders in your organization or team.

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Of Related Interest:
  12 Behaviors You Can Practice to Make You a More Inspiring Leader

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:08 PM
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Things You Can Do to Build Their Future

Build Their Future

This last summer, my son Mark attended a youth leadership conference for the first time. I attended the opening session with him in a room of about 300 kids that all seemed to know each other. Mark is a very personable and approachable young man but as a parent I naturally thought, “How is he going to get up and running in a group this size? He doesn’t know anyone.”

But the opening session wasn’t over for 30-seconds when a young man walked up and said, “I’m Hunter. Would you like to hang out with us?” And they were off and never looked back.

As I walked away, I thought that this is the kind of leadership that makes a difference in people’s lives. It’s leading from where you are, without title and without fanfare. Just doing the right thing.

It’s the little things like this that we teach our kids that enrich their lives and those of others. Leadership begins in the home. It’s where we have the greatest impact on the future. Here’s a few things we can do:

We can help them to look further out. Help them see the long-term effects of the decisions they make today. Define a future and help them to line up the decisions needed to get there. It will help them to gain a perspective on life.

We can take the time to talk about their experiences. Help them to see them in the most constructive way possible.

While some rules are important, principles will last them a lifetime. Rules are easy to churn out. Principles take time to teach and integrate into a person’s life.

We can teach them that connection with others matters and that’s not done behind a screen. People are experienced when you can look into their eyes. Life is experienced when you can see what is going on around you—both the sights and sounds. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your full attention.

We can give them responsibility. Help them to value contribution over consumption. If not, we can be guilty of what President George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” He added, “No child in America should be segregated by low expectations.” Help them raise the bar in their life and thereby help others to discover the possibilities in theirs.

And the most important thing we can do is to set an example of the kind of people we want them to become.

Remember we are training future leaders not just raising kids. It’s an investment.

I later found out it was Mark Sanborn’s son that came up to my son that day. Not surprising. So I’ll leave you with a principle from Sanborn’s book, You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader:
We can’t give to others without being affected positively ourselves. And this is the secret of giving: When we make the world better for others, you make the world better for yourself.

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Of Related Interest:
  Leadership Begins at Home

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:27 PM
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The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership

Rules of Leadership
Michael Soupios and Panos Mourdoukoutas have reviewed the writings of the Classical philosophers and selected ten ideas that will positively impact our leadership effectiveness in The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership. Not surprisingly, the philosophies of classic figures remain relevant in today's workplace.

Early on the authors suggest that the raw material of leadership is not latent in just about everyone and rightly discredit the idea that it “just takes a nudge to trigger its unfolding.” Further, they say that the “special qualities of genuine leadership are remarkably complex and rare.” It is true that good leaders are not as common as they need to be and that we do confuse administration with actual leadership as they suggest, but the potential is there in each one of us. The problem is that it remains latent in many of us. We choose not to do the work necessary and instead assume reading “Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Cat” is enough to unlock our potential.

The authors do expose the real culprit at the end of the book: “Achieving the rank of genuine leader is a daunting task that most will find prohibitively challenging.” In short, “leadership requires a special form of courage: the courage to fashion a code of conduct governed by principled conviction.”

Genuine leadership is not complex but it is difficult because it requires that we do the inner-work on a continual basis. And that is a lot to commit to. It’s lifelong. And what we want to do is to check it off and mark it as good enough. Sustainable leadership requires a radical life-long commitment to rule one of leadership: Know Thyself.

Rule 1: “Know Thyself.” –Thales
This is an intimidating task and one that many leaders never really get around to. It never seems as important as the task at hand. The larger issue though is that we all possess a “powerful tendency to obscure, distort, and fictionalize on behalf of a fabricated reality.” The authors note that “Knowing Thyself means bringing a fresh transparency to our hidden motives and identities.” They suggest that a would-be leader commit to “an agenda of spirited self-indictment.”

Rule 2: “Office Shows the Person.” –Pittacus
Giving a person power reveals their inner qualities. “Specifically, power discloses whether or not a person has disposed if the psychological deficiencies that negate the possibility of real leadership.”

Rule 3: “Nurture Community at the Workplace.” –Plato
Plato insisted that “there is no greater evil than discord and faction and no greater good than the bonds of communal sentiment.” The idea that if one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. “Foster a culture of cooperation and collaboration by defying the myth of the exceptional individual, and by explaining the corporate gains of working together.”

Rule 4: “Do Not Waste Energy on Things You Cannot Change.” –Aristophanes
The Athenian playwright Aristophanes wrote in his play titled Peace, “Never will you make the crab to walk straight.” Some things we cannot change. “Leaders must assume a posture of flexible response.”

Rule 5: “Always Embrace the Truth.” –Antisthenes
Antisthenes wrote, “There are only two people who will tell you the truth about yourself—an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.” “Honest assessment is an essential requirement of effective leadership.” The problem is that the higher up the ladder you go, the less likely you will receive complete and accurate information.” Seek the truth. Hire a heretic.

Rule 6: “Let Competition Reveal Talent.” –Hesiod
Hesiod suggested that competition that releases selfishness is destructive, but competition that releases ingenuity and creativity is a constructive use of competition. Strife than is not the byproduct, but inner excellence and personal development.

Rule 7: “Live Life by a Higher Code.” –Aristotle
Aristotle wrote of the “magnanimous man” or the “great-souled” person. He is referring to a person that lives by a higher or more rigorous code than the average person, but not in a vain way. “When it comes to the great-souled individual, personal honor, not ego, is the ultimate priority and concern.”

Rule 8: “Always Evaluate Information with a Critical Eye.” –The Skeptics
“Leaders should never assume that the information they receive is unsoiled by hidden agendas or political agendas.” The problem though is even more personal than that. Socrates reminded us that “we must be vigilant against the conceits of wisdom [and] that we are all strongly inclined to assume we understand things that in truth we fail to genuinely comprehend.”

Rule 9: “Never Underestimate the Power of Personal Integrity.” –Sophocles
In the play Philoctetes by Sophocles, one of the two central characters believes that the ends justify the means; “one should not allow moral concerns to impede the necessities of practical achievement.” In the face of this seductive idea, the other main character, Neoptolemus, responds, “I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” It’s easy to rationalize wrong behavior.

Rule 10: “Character Is Destiny.” –Heraclitus
Our character or our moral essence determines the course of our lives. While we can’t control the world around us, “Heraclitus was correct to insist that we are, to a very great extent, the authors of both our own blessings and our own burdens.” “A well formed character,” write the authors, “is the priceless reward paid to those who have done the hard work of coming to know themselves.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:24 PM
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Why Reframing is Important to Great Leadership

How Great Leaders Think

LEADERS need to be able to look at the situations they face from different perspectives. The need to be able to reframe a situation in order to understand what it really going on and deal with it effectively.

How Great Leaders Think
A leader’s “ability to reframe sets them free” and helps them to “avoid getting trapped in cognitive ruts,” write Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal, authors of How Great Leaders Think. “Leaders can expand how they think by using different mental models to determine what’s going on and what to do in complex situations.”

Bolman and Deal are the authors of Reframing Organizations. They have taken the model they introduced there and applied it specifically to leadership. The model has four frames, scripts, or perspectives. Each has its advantages and shortcomings and we tend to lean towards one more than the others. This idea, of course, is to develop the ability to use the appropriate frame or script to generate a unique approach to handling challenging circumstances instead of relying upon our tried and true default approaches.

Our single approach will only be “right” a small percentage of the time. Too often leaders will approach everything they deal with the last approach and insist they are right as they head right over the cliff. They insist that the world is as they see it. To grow is to recognize your blind spots.

The four frames are:

Structural — Leader’s role as architect. An emphasis on finding the right design for the task at hand. Structural leaders help groups get clear about why they’re there, who is in charge, who is supposed to do what, and how team members can work with on another to achieve the group’s purpose.

Human Resources — Leader’s role as coach. The central theme is improving the fit between the individual and the organization and begins with caring—or in a word, love. Leaders who commit themselves to key practices of effective people leadership—developing a philosophy for managing people, hiring the right people, keeping employee investing in their future, empowering them, and promoting diversity—have repeatedly built businesses that thrive on the strength of employee talent, energy, and creativity.

Political — Leader’s role as peacemaker. Organizations and societies are networks as well as hierarchies, and the power of relationships is a crucial complement to the power of position. Misreading the political map and overlooking the power of potential players can lead to catastrophe. That’s why it’s critical to treat the map as a work in progress—a guide to be tested as you move along.

Symbolic — Leader’s role as storyteller. The central theme is the way humans discover and create meaning in an ambiguous and chaotic world. Symbolic leadership begins with the leader’s deeply rooted faith and passion. Symbolic leaders infuse magic into organizations through their artistic focus on history, shared values, heroes, ritual, ceremony, and stories, and serve as icons who embody a group’s values and spirit.

The authors write: “Consciously or not, we all read situations to figure out what scene we’re in and what role we’ve been assigned so that we can respond in character. But it’s important to ask ourselves whether the drama is the one we want and recognize that we have latitude as to which character to play and how to interpret the script.”

The authors provide practical lessons from examining these frames through the leadership of Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz, Tony Hsieh, Ursala Burns, Steve Jobs, and others.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:51 PM
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8 Shifts Young Leaders Need to Make

8 Shifts Young Leaders Need to Make

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leading Forum
Jonathan Pearson serves as Connections Pastor for Springwell Church in Taylors, S.C. He is the author of Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make and Be the Switch: Living Your Calling While Living Your Life. You can follow him on Twitter at @JonathanPearson.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:58 AM
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Finishing Well


SPORTSWOMAN, polar explorer and author of On the Edge, Alison Levine, recently told Forbes about finishing well:

Most of the deaths on Everest occur on the descent—after a climber reaches the top. The reason so many accidents happen on the descent is because people use everything they have—all of their energy reserves—to get to the top, and then they have nothing left in them to get themselves back down the mountain. Every year there are mountaineers who collapse just below the summit; many of them die there. Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory. You have to know yourself well enough to judge when it is time to turn around and head back down. And you need to make that call when you still have enough energy left to descend. The hard part is that quite often that turn around point is before you reach the summit. The number one goal of any expedition: come back alive. Number two is come back with all of your fingers and toes. Tagging the top of a mountain should never be the goal.

The goal isn’t getting to the top. The goal is getting back down—finishing well. Many leaders struggle with finishing well. Ironically, success plants the seeds for derailment. Success encourages complacency and arrogance both of which erode character and obstruct growth. Finishing well requires a lifelong commitment to self-awareness and growth. And that means feedback. Any leader that struggles with openness to feedback is flirting with disaster.

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

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

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Conscious Success Book of Mistakes

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:58 PM
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Could the Leadership Contract Help You Be a Better Leader?

Leadership Contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it time for you to sign the leadership contract?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:20 PM
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Adversaries into Allies

Adversaries into Allies

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Control your own emotions. When we have our emotions under control we are able to “act out of thought, out of consciousness, and help create a situation in which everyone involved can come away as winners.”

Your default setting to pressure situations is directly proportional to your ability to problem solve, to live in the solution, and to lead.

2. Understand the clash of belief systems. Learn to get out of your own head and into the head of the person you’re trying to influence.

Not only is it our responsibility to be certain our message is understood by the recipient, it’s just as important to be sure we understand their message, as well.

3. Acknowledge their ego. When dealing with others, remember that “their ego is highly sensitive, and if you want someone to agree with your wishes, you must handle it with extreme caution and care.”

Be a judge, not a lawyer. Whereas a lawyer is paid to win the case for his or her client by any legal and ethical means possible, a judge is not. A judge needs to understand both sides of the issue and be as impartial as possible. Human that we are, being impartial is difficult when the ego wants to win at all costs—even if you’re wrong. But the best way to overcome this unproductive desire is to practice being a judge.

4. Set the proper frame. The frame—the context—determines the direction of every interpersonal transaction. If you set the frame you are in control.

Expecting someone to be helpful doesn’t change them, it changes you. And that is what changes them.

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

Avoid negative framing. [“I don’t like what you do or how you do it.”] It’s interesting how often I hear someone begin a conversation in a way that’s almost guaranteed to upset the person whom they, for whatever reason, want or need to win over. Instead, ask yourself what you can do at this very moment to set the person at ease and make them as receptive as possible to you and your message.

5. Communicate with tact and empathy. “Tact is the ability to say something in a way that makes the other person feel less threatened or defensive and more open to you and your ideas.” It’s key to becoming an Ultimate Influencer. Empathy—the ability to identify with another’s feelings—and tact go hand-in-hand. “You will naturally display tact when you are truly empathetic to another’s situation. And speaking tactfully will communicate your empathy to that person.”

[Give people an out.] You have honored this person by removing pressure and giving him or her the option to escape through the back door. You are not giving them the out so they will take it. Your goal is to make them feel comfortable enough not to feel the need to take it.

Sometimes the most influential thing we can ever do is listen. Just listen.
Burg ends with character. “Even more important that what you say and what you do is who you are.” Your character is what ultimately determines your long-term influence. Be who you say you are. Say little and do much.
Develop a reputation as a person who, rather than talking a good game, actually plays a good game. One who, instead of talking about being honest, is honest. Instead of talking about thinking of others, thinks of others.

These ideas aren’t rocket science, but they do take work and thought. The problem is we get lazy and resort to command-and-control in a desire to push our own agenda and ideas. Real leadership—ultimate influence—is not easy but it is rewarding.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:25 PM
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5 Leadership Lessons: The Heart of Leadership

5 Leadership Lessons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 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

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:24 AM
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7 Metaphors for Leadership Transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:45 PM
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Are You Losing Inside the Box?

Are You Losing Inside the Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:48 AM
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Seven Disciplines that Make Leadership Development Stick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


11 Ground Rules that Leaders Ought to Know

11 Ground Rules

PHILLIP VAN HOOSER has condensed his leadership experience down to 11 ground rules that Leaders Ought to Know.

Van Hooser begins with the fact that leaders are made: Leadership is a choice, reinforced by individual effort. In his earlier days, he was moved by a comment that Deming wrote in Out of the Crisis:

Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment.

His choice to be a leader has proven to be his most important professional decision. And it could be yours too. But as Deming noted it takes deliberate work and is not a quick transformation. It is the choice to make the effort that makes a leader.

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:21 PM
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5 Leadership Lessons: Avoiding the "Mediocre Me" Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:12 PM
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Fred 2.0 – Leadership in Action

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

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

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

Why Would You Live this Way?

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

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

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

The Fred Philosophy is Good Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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The Gift of Struggle The Good Struggle

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


The Secret to Leadership Growth

Secret to Leadership Growth.jpg

THE NUMBER ONE way leaders grow is by listening.

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

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

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

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

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

Listening is the catalyst for making individuals a community.

Listening creates the space for leadership.

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


The Leader’s Pocket Guide

Leader Pocket Guide

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

The Leader’s Pocket Guide is the next best thing to having John as your own personal coach. He shares the lessons he’s learned coaching others. Without a doubt, it’s a handy reference guide when you’re stuck, but if you use this book like a leadership development program, you can pull out its real value.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
—Victor Frankel

Leadership development is not easy. Facing yourself as a leader is the most difficult part. Appropriately, he begins with “How to Know Yourself Better.” Leaders continually need to compare where they are developmentally to where they want to be. It’s critically important to their growth. John suggests that we ask ourselves and others three questions: What more do I need to be doing more or less of? What else should I be doing—what should I be asking others to do? and How do I accept feedback?

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

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

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Lead Your Boss Lead By Example

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:47 PM
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The Character Based Leader

Charisma: helpful
Competence: important
Character: Priceless

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

Good leadership rests upon good character.

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:33 PM
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Does This Doorframe Make My Head Look Big?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Eight Pillars of Trust

The Trust Edge

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

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

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

The Trust Edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 Laws of Trust Do You Trust People

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:57 PM
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Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Align.” Alignment builds trust. Alignment speeds up the process. Alignment should be collaborative, start where you are and cascade, and be flexible. It requires some finesse to get people on the same page while protecting the innovative mavericks and creating the conditions for operating in a state of flow.

There is a big difference between completing an alignment exercise at a one-shot retreat and actually creating an aligned organization, between having a purpose statement and being purpose-driven, between having values and upholding them when the pressure is on, between saying you are vying for the triple crown and actually aligning the enterprise to achieve it.

The five triple crown leadership practices are related and mutually reinforcing. Building excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations requires a commitment from many people over many years, and the view that leaders exist at all levels.

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


The Titleless Leader

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

For Russell, titleless leadership is based on four cornerstones:

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

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

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

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

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

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


If It's Important, Be There

If Its Important Be There

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

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

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

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

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

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Lead By Example Yoritomo Leading By Example

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


Having an Informed Faith

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

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

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

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

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

Make potential part of your reality.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:26 AM
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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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The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership

Twelve Absolutes

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

His book, The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership offers insight from his lifetime in leadership, interacting with some of the world's top leaders in the C-suite and boardrooms, as well as heads of state. He offers a framework based on fundamental human truths and the essential elements of leadership. The “Absolutes” are building blocks that must be present regardless of your leadership style or approach. Here are the 12 Absolutes with Burnison’s thoughts on each:

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

Burnison reminds us that leadership is about people. “To lead,” he writes, “is to make an emotional connection on a very real and human level in every interaction.”

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No Fear of Failure Leadership U

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:47 PM
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Real Leaders Don’t Boss

Real Leaders Dont Boss

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

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

Eich identifies and then dedicates a chapter to each of eight essentials of effective leadership:

  1. Real leaders don’t boss. They are calm in their style, yet have zero tolerance for bullies, who, in any capacity, undermine performance and morale.
  2. Real leaders have a central compass. They aspire to do what’s right and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
  3. Real leaders communicate with clarity, honesty, and directness, and know how to listen.
  4. Real leaders have a unique make-up. Their passion translates into a strong corporate culture.
  5. Real leaders value and support everyone they lead, out front as well as behind the scenes.
  6. Real leaders know when to get out of the way.
  7. Real leaders are accessible. They are humble and easily approached.
  8. Real leaders know the difference between character and integrity, and why it takes both to succeed.

These eight essentials are about treating people right. They also reflect an extended range of responses to people and situations that “bosses” either don’t possess or exercise.

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

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

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Earn Respect Culture Counts

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:14 PM
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A Leader’s Most Dangerous Thought

I deserve
“I deserve.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership is something we live, for others.

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


8 Essential Principles of Effective Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:36 PM
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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

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


12 Reasons You Will Be a Better Leader this Year

12 Reasons Better Leader

1. Because you are generous with information. You know it enables and values others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Newtons First Law Lifestorming

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:02 AM
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True North Groups

True North Groups

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

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

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

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

At stake is our own vulnerability. Even if we are afraid of the idea, it’s not difficult to see the value in it. George and Baker have been doing this for decades and share the nuts and bolts of creating your own group. It begins with picking the right people and that may not include your close friends. It’s based on trust and a commitment to personal growth. The authors list the following characteristics of ideal group members:

  • Curiosity about themselves, others and the world
  • Willingness to challenge assumptions about life
  • Comfort with self-reflection
  • Commitment to continuing personal growth
  • Respect for themselves and others
  • Ability to listen without judgment
  • Ability to hold confidences
  • Willingness to be open and share their life stories
  • Not self-absorbed
  • Ability to commit time and energy to the group
  • A sense of humor and a positive outlook on life is always helpful.

Next steps include, Norming (establishing how the group functions), Storming (behaviors that may impede your group), Performing (maintaining and renewing your group) and Reforming (the need to restructure and start again).

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:27 PM
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Do You Have Moral Overconfidence?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


If You Will Lead ... Well

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:58 PM
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No Fear of Failure

No Fear of Failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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12 Absolutes of Leadership Leadership U

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


It’s Not About You

It’s Not About You

It’s Not About You (Reissued as The Go-Giver Leader) by Bob Burg and John David Mann, is the story of a leader’s journey. A journey any good leader has to take.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson #5: Share the Mantle. It’s not about you. “You are not their dreams, you are only the steward of those dreams. And leaders often get it backwards and start thinking they not only hold the best of others but they are the best….The moment you start thinking it’s all about you, that you’re the deal, is the moment you begin losing your capacity to positively influence others’ lives.”

Whatever great parenting looks like, it is not about the parent.

The Go-Giver Leader is a great presentation of solid life lessons. A book to be read and passed around. Unfortunately, “it’s not about you,” is not the kind of lesson that once learned, is always remembered. If it was, fewer great leaders would finish poorly after so many years of outstanding service. This is an issue that we face over and over again, but hopefully in ever diminishing frequency and intensity as our leadership matures. This book is a great reminder of the power of the right kind of leadership; leadership that comes from an inner strength of understanding, service and outgoing concern for others.

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:29 PM
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Maxwell's 5 Levels of Leadership

Maxwell's 5 Levels of Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Levels of Leadership

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

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

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Yes to the Mess Leadershift

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:26 AM
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Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:01 AM
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The Anywhere Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:49 PM
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Credibility: How Leaders Gain it and Lose It


CREDIBILITY is the foundation of leadership.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some leaders think that credibility once demonstrated and earned, is complete. But it must be renewed daily in everything we do. Unfair or not, it is the life that a good leader has chosen and demonstrates the understanding that the function of leaders is to serve, not be served. Credibility is an important book to help you sustain your influence. They conclude:

Renewing credibility is a continuous human struggle and the ultimate leadership struggle. Strenuous effort is required to build and strengthen the foundations of working relationships. Constituents do not owe leaders allegiance. Leaders earn it. The gift of another’s trust and confidence is well worth the struggle and essential to meeting the challenges of leading people to places they have never been before.

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Everyday People Ten Truths

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


What to Ask the Person in the Mirror

Person in the Mirror

WHILE we might like to think otherwise, here is a fact about successful leaders:

Successful leaders go through significant periods of time in which they feel confused, discouraged, and unsure of themselves and their decisions. They feel as if they should be somewhere else, doing something else.

And unsuccessful leaders go through the same thing. The difference, says Harvard professor Robert Kaplan, is “how they deal with these periods of confusion and uncertainty. The trick lies not in avoiding these difficult periods; it lies in knowing how to step back, diagnose, regroup, and move forward.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Who’s the Real Leader in Your Office?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role

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

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

The book is divided into seven sections:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:36 PM
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5 Leadership Lessons: Redesigning Leadership

5 Leadership Lessons

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

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

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

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

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

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

5  Whether brought by duty or desire, once people are in the same room, they’ve assumed the basic stance of being a team—which is to be together. Preconceived negative opinions don’t evaporate, but at least negativity can mix with positivity in the room, which by electrical principles results in the neutralizing of the respective +/- charges. I now consider this the most basic concept to leading a team.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:52 AM
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7 Essential Attributes for Picking Good Leaders

Picking Good Leaders

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

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

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

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

These seven are the basic building blocks of a leader and other aspects of leadership flow from them. For example, innovation “requires the imagination to conceive of a new vision, the judgment to ensure this vision is practical and can be implemented, the empathy to anticipate how others will react to the new idea and to garner their support, and the courage to stick with a plan despite inevitable bumps in the road.” (They note that because innovation draws on so many of the seven attributes it is a rare quality among many leaders.) They are:

  1. Integrity. “Integrity is the fundamental leadership attribute….Integrity is the fundamental attribute that keeps everything else secure.” Without integrity, things break down fast. Kroger CEO Dave Dillon remarked, “Integrity allows you to assume important characteristics about how things work.” As a result, it fosters trust which leads to higher productivity. (See more on this on Facebook)
  2. Empathy. Defined as a fundamental ability to tune in to others, it “is critical for leadership for many reasons. Combined with integrity, it drives trust. It gives followers a sense that their interests are being looked after, and this creates positive energy. Followers who sense that a leader appreciates them are motivated to carry out their duties in a more committed way.”
  3. Emotional Intelligence. This is self-mastery or the ability to “perceive, control, and improve the connection between what we feel and the way we act.” It’s about self-awareness. Do I know myself? Can I control myself? Do I look for ways to improve?
  4. Vision. A frequently abused term, vision starts with imagination and an inquisitive mind. “Visionary leaders are good storytellers who are capable of weaving together interesting connections.” Vision provides direction.
  5. Judgment. Good judgment is good decision-making. “This sounds simple enough, but the origins of how and why people make the decisions they do are actually quite complex.” It’s the ability to zero in on what’s important, see the whole chessboard, and take decisive action.
  6. Courage. There is always conflict. “Leadership means being on the front line of those conflicts. It means facing conflicts, mediating and shaping them, sometimes at the risk of great personal cost or freedom.” How often does a fear of standing out inhibit your ability to do the right thing?
  7. Passion. A leader’s passion or drive is important because it creates positive energy. “They attract followers and act as catalysts for the formation of highly motivated teams.” High energy and enthusiasm are signs of passion but the trick is to determine where that fire comes from and is the leader in it just for themselves. There is a balance to be maintained with the other six attributes.

Each attribute is discussed in detail—with examples of leaders who have it and those who don’t—and they suggest practical ways to access their presence in potential leaders—or yourself for that matter. This exercise should help you better understand which aspects of your own leadership might be holding you back and should be addressed. This book is a valuable tool for evaluating the efficacy of your own leadership development program.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:39 PM
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Can I Lead? Yes. But…

There is a danger in selling leadership to everyone.

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

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

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

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

Now. Listen. Very. Carefully.

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

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

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

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

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:15 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership , Leadership Development


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5  Find ways to say yes. Teens and kids hear the word “no” all the time. It’s no wonder many stop asking. The reality is that teens are generally capable of far more than they are ever expected or allowed to do. Part of teaching leadership is to get teens to realize that they are capable of becoming leaders and accomplishing tasks. One of the best things you can do to encourage this is to, as much as possible, eliminate the word “no” from your vocabulary. Except for health and safety and rules issues, the answer should always be some variation of the word yes.

This is not a book about teens. It is a book about how we as adults relate to teens. Because the only tool we have to teach leadership skills (or anything) to teens is the control we have over our own actions. You can spend hours worrying about what the teens are doing or their attitude, but we can only control the things we do and our own attitude.
—Dan Appleman

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:10 PM
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From Values to Action

From Values to Action

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

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

Self-reflection allows you to transform activity into productivity for all the right reasons. It means “you are surprised less frequently.” It is essential in setting priorities. You can’t do everything. So reflection makes it possible to answer key questions like What is most important? and What should we be doing? in a way that is in line with your strengths and values and organizational goals.

Engaging in self-reflection on a regular, ongoing basis (preferably daily) keeps you from becoming so caught up in the momentum of the situation that you get carried away and consider actions and decisions that are not aligned with who you are and what you want to do with your life.

Balance and Perspective is the ability to understand all sides of an issue. Pursuing balance means you will have to grasp the fact that leaders don’t have all the answers. Kraemer says, “My task was to recognize when a particular perspective offered by one of my team members was the best answer….Leadership is not a democracy. My job as the leader is to seek input, not consensus.”

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

True Self-Confidence is know what you know and you don’t know; to be comfortable with who you are while acknowledging that you still need to develop in certain areas. (Comfortable not complacent.) Why TRUE self-confidence?

There are people who adopt a persona that might make others think that they have self-confidence, but they are not the real deal. Instead, they possess false self-confidence, which is really just an act without any substance. These individuals are full of bravado and are dominating. They believe they have all the answers and are quick to cut off any discussion that veers in a direction that runs contrary to their opinions. They dismiss debate as being a complete waste of time. They always need to be right—which means proving everyone else wrong.

Genuine Humility is born of self-knowledge. Never forget where you started. “Genuine humility helps you recognize that you are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that you ought to respect everyone equally and not treat anyone differently just because of a job title.”

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

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

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

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Consider Leading Minds on Reflection

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:13 PM
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A Case for Reconsidering the Way We’ve Always Done It

The Way Weve Always Done It

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

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

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

I am a big advocate of traditio