The Importance of Values to Leadership

Can one exist without the other?

The Importance of Values to Leadership

Can you have real leadership in a “value vacuum”?

What do I mean by that? By that, I mean a leadership context that is devoid of values or morals. In an article on “Heroic Leadership” earlier I opined the following: “Values are an integral part of good leadership. To be a true leader, you must take a stand on issues. And that stand must be a moral stand. As leaders, we should be mobilizing and motivating our organizations to higher moral ground even when that may not increase the organization’s profit margin or bottom line”. 

What’s goin’ on out there?

Upon further reflection, I am wondering if in addition to a leadership crisis in our society, we just actually be having a moral or values crisis. Could it be that there are just not enough of those who see values that are worthy enough that would make us want to lead others to strive toward reaching those same values? Conversely, could it be that there are not enough of us who see things that have such potential for harm that we will lead others away from those dangerous moral pitfalls?

I would not suggest that only the morally pure would be qualified to lead. For to do so would disqualify all candidates. Nor would I suggest that values-based leadership would be infallible. But, I do believe that leadership is in and of itself a value. Society today would say, “To each his own” or “Live and let live”. Today’s culture does not necessarily see a value in “values-based” leading or in choosing whom they are following based upon a moral assessment of the leader’s character. But, like so many today, I am looking for leaders to rise up with values and morals as their foundation and say “Follow me and I will lead you to higher ground!”

How does this relate to me and my leadership?

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Leadership Lessons from T-Ball

At least from a Papa’s Perspective

Leadership Lessons from T-Ball

I have remarked many times before that you cannot predict from whence inspiration will come. Such is the case today as I reflect on my youngest grandchild’s recent first year of Junior T-Ball.

We are not baseball fans by nature. I am much more of an ice hockey fan than a baseball fan. But, thanks to some very dear and patient friends, I learned the game of baseball almost 15 years ago. Nowadays, I thoroughly enjoy the game.

The fact that Jr. T-Ball bears little resemblance to real baseball is not the subject for today. Rather, it is to consider the leadership lessons (and really, life lessons) from watching our grandson’s first season.

Observations and an Application to Leadership

T-Ball can be a little scary. — Most of the little ones were a little scared to be out there on the field by themselves. Mom or Dad was always welcome to stand alongside the player. Shoot, the little player could actually ask anyone to stand not the field with them to help them feel more comfortable out there. I was drafted several times by my grandson to stand with them as they played the field. But, you know what, we were able to share great times together. And guess who taught him to say “Hey battah, battah, battah!” while he hunched over trying to be as ready as he could?

Leadership can be a little scary at times as well. We just may need to reach out and draft someone to come stand beside us from time to time. Not only will it be a comfort to us, we can also learn some things while they are standing by our side if we are open to a little ad hoc mentoring.

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Data – Don’t Ignore It

How do YOU feel about it?

Data - Don't Ignore It

Data. Love it or despise. Just don’t ignore it. There are often equal amounts of art and science when it comes to leadership. So, let’s take a look at the more scientific side for a few moments.

A Tale of Two Organizations

I often split my time between two very different organizations. One is completely data driven. It measures every little aspect of its operation. It can tell you what is happening at any given moment at any of its far-flung operations that are even at the fringes of civilization. It can tell you how its people and products are performing in absolute real time.

The other is the farthest thing from it. It can’t tell you with any real degree of certainty how many people attended its last event. It does a fairly decent job of the financial reporting of contributions. But it often has no clue how its people or programs are performing.

Now, in complete transparency, one is a commercial venture and one is a non-profit venture. But, just because a venture is set up to be a non-profit, does that mean that their demands for data and data-driven decisions would be any less than the profit-making one?

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Heroic Leadership

Are Great Leaders Also Heroes?

Heroic Leadership

There is a theory of leadership known as the “Great Man” theory. It states that great leaders are simply more “heroic” than others. And further, their innate qualities, skills or abilities enable them to shape their world.

Born or Made?

The Great Man Theory has about as many adherents as detractors. The problem is that this theory is a little too simplistic to cover every scenario. Plus, it ignores the evidence that sometimes leaders are developed in the crucible of crisis. And the folks who believe in the crucible as a developer of leadership talents have their own set of statements supporting that theory of leadership.

But, for purposes of today’s thoughts, I want to focus on the “heroic” nature of leadership.

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Projecting and Reflecting

A simple principle about leadership

Projecting and Reflecting

Our followers will reflect whatever you project. It is just that simple. It is also just that scary.

Many years ago when our children were very young, I was joking about their behavior (and by behavior I mean misbehavior) in Sunday School one morning. I jokingly said that they must have learned that behavior while playing with the other children. The response from the teacher was humorous but it stung my heart. It became one of the most haunting little statements that anyone ever made to me when I was a young parent. Here is what she said: “Children only do what they see at home.”

I was suddenly mortified. What if that was true? (And I believe that it is to a large extent.) What if those little eyes really are watching my every move? Fast forward now many years later and I can tell you that my children have grown into incredible adults. They are each wonderful parents and role models for their own children now.

But stay with me, please. This is not an article about parenting. It is really a quick article about leadership outside of the home. And it is about how our followers perceive us. In other words, how do they perceive the leadership message or methodology that I am projecting? And can I tell what I am projecting by how they reflect my leadership?

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Genuine or Joke?

What kind of a leader are you?

Genuine or Joke?

This world is full of fakes and phonies. Some would call them “posers.” But I tend to write alliteratively and I needed a word that began with the same phonetic sound as the word, “genuine.” So I ended up with “Genuine or Joke?”

One of the words I hear a lot these days in the leadership lingo is a buzzword — Authentic. Do you hear it as often as I do? You are more likely to hear it in the non-profit world than the commercial profit ventures. From what I can tell, to those folks who use that word most often, being authentic is just an excuse for poor behavior and a lack of self-discipline. They are not genuine leaders. They are a joke.

So, how do you tell the difference between genuine and joke?

Genuineness and authenticity do not have totally objective measurements. In fact, genuineness and authenticity may be a little like how the U.S. Supreme Court has dealt with the issue of obscenity. They said that they may not be able to define it. But they know it when they see it. Consider the following comparisons between leaders who are genuine and leaders who are a joke.

Leaders that are genuine

Genuine leaders are comfortable in their own skin. They are comfortable with who they are at a very basic level. To be clear, they are always seeking to improve. They are not complacent. But they are comfortable with who they are without the need for pretentious behaviors and overt gestures.

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Traditions Need a Foundation and a Credible Leader

It is not enough to just have some great traditions

Traditions Need a Foundation and a Credible Leader

I pondered recently the value of “traditions” when it comes to building a legacy of leadership. And I got a lot of interesting feedback and comments from folks who reached out to me directly.  And the one that kept coming up over and over was this. “What is more important – The tradition, or the one who is responsible for maintaining and upholding the tradition?”

That is a tough question, isn’t it? It is tough because, at the end of the day, the tradition is only as “valuable” as the one (or ones) who maintain it.

I get to be a part of or visit many, many organizations as part of my job and due to the consulting that I do with non-profit organizations. Each of them would tell you that they have a corporate culture. Many would say that they have some traditions that they hold dear. Yet many of the leaders within those organizations are frustrated and confused by the fact that the culture and traditions do not seem to be permeating the entire organization. Why is that?

Traditions Without Foundations

One of the common reasons for the lack of traditions and the legacy that they bring is that organizations lack the foundational principles on which traditions and legacies are built. They believe that culture is built by providing a good write-up in the New Employee handbook. Unfortunately, the handbook does not establish the “Why?”? And many times it doesn’t even address the “How?”. And the “How” is infinitely easier to explain than the “Why?”  Perhaps traditions are like values. They are not taught. They are caught!

Are you building a foundation where the traditions can be observed and followed because of how well they are defined and lived out by the leadership of the organization?

Traditions Without Credible Leadership

The last sentence of the section above really hints at the problem that no one is really willing to acknowledge. It is like the ancient proverb that says: “A man that thinks he is leading, yet has no followers, is only taking a walk.

After the sting of that thought begins to go away, let’s consider the role that you and I, as leaders, play in the instilling of leadership traditions throughout the organization. Especially when it comes to young leaders and those leaders that are the “up and coming” leaders in an organization.

The first and foremost factor when it comes to the successful instilling of leadership traditions in an organization is that you and I, as leaders, MUST be great examples of those leadership traditions. I was reminded again recently of this when I came across the Knight’s Code that is upheld by an organization that is very near and dear to my heart. That code says:

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Leadership Traditions Build a Leadership Legacy

Practice Makes Permanent

Leadership Traditions Build a Leadership Legacy

How many of you are already thinking that I have made a mistake in my writing the subtitle of this article? Most of us have grown up hearing that “Practice makes perfect.” Well, for those of us who have done any coaching, we will tell you that “Practice makes permanent.” Therefore, your practice must be focused and it must direct you toward an ideal.

Recently I had the opportunity to observe the Traditions Ceremony at the school where several of my grandchildren attend. It was interesting to observe. At the Traditions Ceremony, there are special items that are presented to the students throughout their time at the school. Every other year they receive a Tradition item.

  • Children in Kindergarten receive a Bible with their name and their year of graduation printed on the cover. This provides the foundation for everything else that they will learn.
  • Second graders receive a Compass. This reminds them of the importance of guiding principles and the importance of being able to find our way.
  • Fourth graders receive the School Crest. This contains the Knight’s Code and reinforces the duties as well as the rights and responsibilities to speak truth, right wrongs, live pure and follow Christ.
  • Sixth graders receive a Journal and Pen. It is with these that they will begin to formulate and articulate their thoughts and practice the rhetorical skills that are needed to communicate clearly and with conviction.
  • Eighth graders receive a Blue Blazer with the school crest on the left over their heart. The crest has those principles of the Knight’s Code.
  • Sophomores receive a Gold Leadership Pin to wear on the right lapel of their blazers. This is to remind them of their ascending leadership role to the rest of the school community.
  • And seniors receive a Walking Stick. Yes, that’s right. They receive a walking stick.

Why a Walking Stick?

Well, to be perfectly clear, it is not a walking stick. It is a “walking staff.” What is the difference between a stick and a staff?

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Don’t Be Silly

Bad Advice Some Times

Don't Be Silly

There is a quote by Adlai Stevenson that is rattling inside my head today. It has leadership implications both at home and at work. Here are the words of Adlai Stevenson.

“It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.”

Leadership In The Home

One of the things that is the most important to us as men is that our wives and children respect us. I think for many men respect comes before love in order of importance to the male psyche. But, I won’t debate that here today. Instead, I want to talk about something that in many ways may run counter to the notion of respect.

The opposite of respect is, of course, disrespect. And as dads, we cannot tolerate that from our children. But consider for a moment the importance of being silly with your children. Did you catch that? I said that it is important to be silly with your children. Why is that important?

Many times our kids see us as the great enforcers of rules and the “sucker of all that is fun out of life.” They could never have known us when we were wearing togas to toga parties in college. They never saw us perform some goofy skit in the Fall Fun Fest our sophomore year. In their eyes, we are the one who goes to work every day and comes home too tired to play.

So, what do we do?

So, what do we do? The truth is that I don’t know how to program silliness into your fatherhood repertoire. It is hard to plan these sorts of things. But be spontaneous. The next time you need to pick up all of the dirty clothes from your child’s room, do it together and make a silly contest out of seeing how many dirty socks, shorts, and shirts you can stuff in your pants. And then waddle to the laundry room with the dirty clothes sticking out of your pockets and waistband and dump them in the washing machine. OK, that isn’t the greatest idea in the world, but I was being spontaneous!

And there is a practical side to all of this.

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Leadership Lessons from the Easter Season

The Unavoidable Example of the Ultimate Leader

The Unavoidable Example of the Ultimate Leader

For many, and for Christians in particular, this is Holy Week. Today is Maundy Thursday. Many will attend a Tenebrae Service tonight. Tomorrow is Good Friday. And Sunday will be Easter.

When you are a blogger it can be sometimes difficult to tackle certain topics. When you are a Christian blogger, it is really a daunting task to write on the subject of Jesus Christ and His leadership. It almost makes that aspect of who He was, seem corporate or secular. But, this week, I feel that I must address it if I am to be true to who I am as a writer and as a person.

The Ultimate Leader

There are many aspects of Jesus’ life that I could point out on any given day. And I don’t begin to know how to prioritize a few of them as we approach Easter morning. But, let me point out one or two for our consideration as we approach the darkness of Good Friday, the quiet of Saturday and the joy of Easter morning.

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