Stability and Leadership – Are They Related?

Stability and Leadership

I have recently begun hanging around some entrepreneurs in an effort to learn from these folks about how to build something tangible from just a dream and and some drive.  These guys (and one gal) are inspiring to me.  My hope is that they will help me grow Leadership Voices beyond my own personal abilities.

There are many management philosophies out there and they have many followers that would state that stability in and of itself is actually non-entrepreneurial. Here are some common expressions that may be familiar to you:

  • Always question what you have.
  • Don’t follow the rules.
  • If you don’t take the risk, you will never succeed.

Although I agree with the spirit of all these statements in general, I disagree with the typical or traditional interpretation of their intent. All these actually imply one very important and often overlooked pice of advice. The underlying theme of all these maxims should be that your goal is be to be performing continuous improvements to the process. But, unfortunately, the above statements are usually taken too literally and that is a danger for budding entrepreneurs and leaders.

Let’s consider the impact of those statements on my topic for the day. – Stability.

What American Sniper Reminded Me About Leadership

Drill Sergeant

I have yet to see American Sniper, we have been waiting for the crowds to die down, and have been busy with our children’s activities. But I have seen many of the long trailers (They make me tear up every time). I have read the book, and it has brought back memories of my time in the Army.

I was 18 when I joined the Army, and fresh out of high school. I was cocky and a know it all, and not very disciplined to say the least. The Army taught me many lessons, but not the least was teaching me what it took to lead. My Drill Sergeant rode me pretty hard because I made the mistake of not signing a wavier after the first say of basic. I thought by not signing the wavier they would just send me home.  And I could not have been more wrong.  Thus began my constant unwanted attention of my drill instructors. I signed the wavier after, let’s just say, an eventful evening.

After two weeks of enduring all they could throw at me, and becoming very humble in the process, our lead Drill Instructor made me platoon leader. He also handed me something I have kept with me my entire life. The Army’s 11 Principles of Leaders:

Principle #1 – Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement – Develop a plan to keep your strengths and improve on your weaknesses.

Principle #2 – Be Technically Proficient – Not only do we know our duties and responsibilities, we know all those of our team members, and we look to our leaders and concern ourselves with learning their duties and responsibilities.

Leading the next generation of leaders: An introduction

Editors’ Note: This article was originally posted in 2014, and for 2015 David and Leadership Voices have decided to produce a series of articles focused on family leadership and developing a plan for producing a legacy of leaders. We wanted to share this article with you again to reset and refresh the ideas as we set up the new series beginning next week. We look forward to your ideas and comments!

I’m the father of three little kids who are just beginning their education, with one in kindergarten, another in preschool and the third is migrating from toddler to little boy. I’ve been contemplating the things that they are learning this year, and watching where they are succeeding, where they struggle, and studying how I can lead my family through both ends of that spectrum. I’m working with my wife to help them learn to read and write, helping them through the sorts of social experiences they are experiencing… you get the idea if you are a parent.

I’ve also been thinking lately about the things that my children need to learn beyond what one might expect of a preschool or kindergarten curriculum: things like an understanding of football, baiting a fish hook, how (and more importantly, when) to throw a punch, how to safely handle a pocket knife (for my oldest, at least), for a few examples.

The Difference Between a Leader and a Master of Ceremony

Emcee

Leaders provide vision and a well-considered direction to reach a common goal. A Master of Ceremonies just announces that it is time to dance.

I run in to a lot of folks who look and act like MCs in my daily activities. But I see very few real leaders. Most of what I see looks more like being a master of ceremonies where the key concern is keeping everyone happy at the party and keeping the proverbial drinks flowing.

Let’s compare and contrast those two individuals for a few moments. What do each of them really do?  And what can we learn from looking at each of them?

Scripts

Masters of Ceremony usually have a script that they are following. The really good ones make everything they do seem as though what they are saying and doing is flowing from a sense of spectacular spontaneity. Pace and humor are very important to a good MC.  Pace and humor are important skills for leaders. But they are the stock and trade of a good MC.

By contrast, leaders don’t always have a script to follow. Or if they do, they are writing it as they go along. Leaders are actually directing the flow of events with their voice, their presence and their example.

Listening in Leadership

I know there have been many articles written about the subject of “listening” in leadership, but, today I would like to explore the topic some more.

How interesting it is that we use the title “Leadership Voices”. One may suggest that when using this title that someone is actually reading, or “listening” to the messages contained in our material. Hopefully that is the case.

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Personally, I have found when communicating with many who are in leadership positions they may listen to what is being said, but may not HEAR what is being said. Our society has arrived at an age when we feel every word spoken should be interpreted, and while  “listening” we are actively trying to interrupt what is said. I feel this is a grave mistake for leaders!

These comments are not intended to diminish the impact a conversation has when vision casting, but rather I hope to help us exercise caution in our interactions with those we lead. Essentially the true intent of our conversations with whom we lead should be nothing less than building a stronger relationship that allows us as leaders to develop the true potential of those we lead.

Think for a moment about how you would want to be listened to. Do you want to be heard?

What characteristics of listening do you exhibit that would make anyone want to follow you?

Sailing the 7 “C”s of Leadership

Seven Cs of Leadership

I am not a sailor. But I love alliteration in writing and, in addition, it helps me to remember things. So, today, I offer you the following “7 ‘C’s of Leadership”.

These are not the only things that are important to be a real leader. But, if you were to focus on just a few aspects or defining characteristics of a real leader – these would certainly be on the list.

Commitment to the Team – A real leader is committed to the team. They are committed to the entire team and do not play favorites. In fact, a leader’s commitment to the team is of more importance than the team’s commitment to the leader. A leader must be committed and willing to sacrifice for the good of the team and the mission.

Creativity and Freedom – A real leader fosters a sense of creativity and freedom of expression from those around them. Fresh ideas and suggestions are welcomed by a real leader. Long gone are the days of the “Yes Men” that have been constant fixtures of some insecure leaders.

Restoring a Fallen Leader

Fallen Tree

I set out doing discovery for this piece because it is near and dear to my heart. I won’t go into specifics here, but I have fallen. I have let my arrogance and need for pleasure and approval get the best of me.

I want anyone who reads this to know that I have started on a journey to restoration, and I find the steps there through whatever they will be to be getting easier. What I mean by that is the hard part was admitting you sinned and asking for forgiveness.

Now I don’t necessarily count myself among the leaders right now, and to be honest I am not sure how to feel about myself. However what I find most interesting about my situation and how I feel about my situation is I am being much harder on myself than the people I am accountable too. I guess what I am trying to say is, my discipline is not a punishment by others but the voluntary acceptance of God’s forgiveness.

I know that sounds like an odd statement, but lets think about forgiveness for a minute.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Distance and Leadership

Distance and Leadership - 2

There is an old joke that is not all that kind to girls.  And it goes like this: “She was so homely looking that the only thing that improved her looks was distance.”

Do you see? I told you it wasn’t very nice. So, I apologize to all of the women in our audience. That old joke is the set-up for my article.

Maybe I am a little preoccupied with the concept of distance since I am writing this from a hotel room about 7600 miles from home. And I desperately would like to be in much closer proximity to the ones that I love.

Does “distance” affect the way that you are perceived as a leader? In other words, does your leadership look the same up close as it does from a comfortable distance? Or are you afraid that if folks get really close to you they will see the real you? And maybe the real you isn’t the kind of leader that you think you are.

I am not indicating that we should act in any way so that we will gain favor in the eyes of those that we love. That would put us in the camp of the “people pleasers.” People pleasers don’t usually make good leaders. Instead I am asking us to consider whether or not we are genuine and that we look the same up close as well as from a distance where our flaws are not as readily noticeable.

So now we are back to the set-up joke. Am I so flawed and blemished as a leader that I only appear acceptable from a distance?

Loneliness in All Aspects of Leadership

Loneliness in All Aspects of Leadership

“There is a loneliness in all aspects of leadership.”

This is a line from a speech given by a man named Gordon B. Hinckley to a group of students and faculty at Brigham Young University in November of 1969.   I will not debate the theology of that institution. Nor will I debate the incidents that gave rise to Mr. Hinckley making the statements that I find so fascinating. But rather I would ask you to consider the impact of that statement on those of us who would be leaders.

At the point that he delivered this address, BYU was embroiled in a great controversy. For those unaware, the BYU football team had recently been to Laramie, WY to play the University of Wyoming at War Memorial Stadium. Fourteen black football players had planned to wear black armbands as part of their uniform to protest the policy of the LDS church that many considered to be racist. These same fourteen players were dismissed from the team on the evening before the big game.

Now consider some more words from Gordon Hinckley about the loneliness of leadership.

“It was ever thus. The price of leadership is loneliness. The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness. I think it is inescapable. The Savior of the world was a Man who walked in loneliness. I do not know of any statement more underlined with the pathos of loneliness than His statement: ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head’ (Matthew 8:20).

There is a loneliness in all aspects of leadership. I think we feel it somewhat in this university. BYU is being discussed across the nation today because of some of our practices and some of our policies and some of our procedures, but I would like to offer the thought that no institution and no man ever lived at peace with itself or with himself in a spirit of compromise. We have to stand for the policy that we have adopted. We may wonder in our hearts, but we have to stand on that position set for us by him who leads us, our prophet.”

For the record, the policy that prohibited black males from the priesthood was rescinded in 1978. And one of the top leaders of the church at that time was none other than Gordon Hinckley.

What happened between 1969 and 1978? Many things. Not the least of which was the rapid expansion of the LDS church in South America and a new temple being constructed in Brazil. How would the policy of the day work in such a multi-cultural and multi-racial nation as Brazil? Apparently, the leadership of the church came to the conclusion that the policy was no longer feasible.

What is the point for us as leaders?