Three Ways to Spot a Leader Wannabe

Leader Wannabe - 1

I recently wrote of my travels to China, the land of the fake Rolex. And in that article I wrote about the importance of discernment. Today I offer you a test of that discernment skill that I am sure that you have been practicing and perfecting since I wrote about it several weeks ago.

There are leaders and then there are “leader wannabes.” So, how do you tell them apart? Some times it takes a little while to distinguish between the two. But, fairly quickly you will be able to tell which one is the genuine leader.

There are many ways that you could discern a real leader. But consider with me a few minutes these three distinguishing characteristics of real leaders.

Five Skills You Need to Be a Better Up-Front Leader

Five Skills for Upfront LeadersThey say that speaking in front of a group of people is one of the most dreaded things that we could be called on to do. So please don’t get mad with what I am about to say. But that has never bothered me. In fact, it energizes me.

I was involved in theater for many years and I owned a speakers bureau and was a professional speaker for a time many years ago. And one of the questions that was asked of me during those years was this:

How do I get better at being “on stage” or at speaking to a group of people?

And here was my answer: Practice, practice, practice!

What is the implication for you as a leader?

What Happens When You Put a Bunch of Leaders in One Room?

Group of leaders

I had the pleasure (No, really, I did!) of joining with a group of local leaders and entrepreneurs today for lunch. A very dear friend and trusted advisor invited me to participate and it was a lot of fun.

It is interesting to watch the various leadership styles and personality types interact with one another. Some are very far along the entrepreneurial path and are running successful ventures. Some haven’t taken the plunge fully. Some are completely confident and at ease in that setting. Some . . . not so much.

One of the outcomes of the meeting was that there will be a little more structure in the upcoming meetings. Each of us will have an opportunity to speak to the entire organization about our companies. It was suggested that we take a few minutes to discuss our venture. We would take a few minutes to discuss a success. And we would take a few minutes to discuss a challenge that we are facing. I think that is an excellent idea.

It is an excellent idea because it will cause us to hone our “pitch.” One person said that in reality we are each really salespeople trying to sell the public on why they need our product, our service, or our message. But more importantly than than refining our “pitch” is that it refines our core message. Each time we speak about who we are and what we do we will get better and more succinct.

What is the leadership lesson here?

Can You Have Success In Leadership Without Structure?

Structure is important

Last week I ended the week with some thoughts on the nature of “struggle” and how it interacts with the leadership process. Today I want to look at the nature of “structure” and how it interacts with leadership.

I have spent the last 4 years of my “day job” dealing with large-scale commercial real estate. I have been very fortunate to work on the largest commercial real estate project in all of North America. One of the things that was obvious, even to the inexperienced, was that without the proper structure, a building would collapse.

Bad things happen without proper structure.

The same is true in leadership and with organizational entities. Structure is vital.

Over the course of my coaching with various organizations, one thing I have found all too often. Organizations with a strong central leader often lack structure to the overall organization. Many times these organizations are led solely through the power and presence of a strong personality.

But is that enough? Is a strong central leader enough to carry an organization?

No! A strong, charismatic, powerful, energetic and magnetic leader can take an organization only so far. At some point there must be some structure put into place in order for the organization to move beyond the initial excitement phase and on to real sustained growth. Providing that structure is the role of a leader.

“But wait! I am just not a structured person!”

That is OK. Your role as a leader is ultimately to provide that structure. If you don’t possess those skills personally, then it is incumbent upon you to reach out and bring structured people into the organization and put them in key leadership roles. And then it is incumbent upon you to get out of their way and let them bring structure and order to the organization.

What is the leadership lesson here?

Can You Have Success In Leadership Without Struggle?

Success and Struggles - 1

Can you?  I am really asking this question.  And I am of the opinion that you do not.  Notice that I didn’t say “cannot.”  Because I suppose it is mathematically possible.  But I think struggle is certainly the norm.

I understand that this is an unpopular stance. Societally, we think of struggle as being a negative thing. At the very least society assumes you are doing it wrong if you are struggling. There’s a cultural stigma attached to struggling.

Real leaders know that it’s not all smiley faces. Struggle and leadership go hand in hand. But we don’t talk about it enough. Most folks want to hear about the success and the gain. They want to celebrate the success and, to be honest, many folks covet the benefits and gains of success.

Leadership books are not written from the midst of the struggle–even though leadership is based on the art of struggle. These books are written after the point of success and the pain of the struggle is long passed. We look at these success stories but unfortunately we draw the wrong conclusions.

What are some of the wrong conclusions that we draw?

The Decline of a Nation?

WB20141125 - 1In the past few days we have witnessed a distinctive parting between leadership and power. Including the loss of appreciation for our fellow man and the gratitude for those who have sacrificed to give us the freedoms we enjoy. Be it immigration or the general rule of law the recent decisions from our leadership to the actions in Ferguson, MO,  lend credence to a dramatic decline in the display of appreciation and gratitude. Sadly, our society seems to be filled with more people who have very little leadership skills and a whole lot of power.

In witnessing this dramatic decline  one must present the question; What are we really seeing develop before our eyes?

Baidu and the Persistent Pursuit of Leadership

Baidu Logo - Large

There are many things that we take for granted in life.  “Google” is probably high on that list.  At least it is for me.  That is until I took my first business trip to China.  I am back in China this week and I didn’t realize until this week how important social networking sites like Facebook and Google’s search engine were to me.

Most of the people that I spoke with about this do not really feel a sense of loss.  There is an alternative that provides most of the features and functions of the suite of tools and portals that Google provides.  China’s equivalent to Google is “Baidu”.  Baidu exists because China has blocked Google’s access to the 1.2 billion people in the country through its state sponsored filtering software.

The name was inspired by a poem written more than 800 years ago during the Song Dynasty. The poem compares the search for a retreating beauty amid chaotic glamour with the search for one’s dream while confronted by life’s many obstacles. Consider this line from that poem.

“…hundreds and thousands of times, for her I searched in chaos,
suddenly, I turned by chance, to where the lights were waning, and there she stood.”

What is the leadership lesson here?

The Education of a Leader


Education of a Leader - 1

The education of a minister should not end with the theological school, but should be prolonged, like that of a teacher or physician, to the latest day of his (or her) life.
– Charles Eliot, longest tenured president of Harvard University and brother of TS Eliot

You know, I wish I could confine that quote only to the clerical profession.  But, I can’t.  That is a quote that is tailor made for leadership development if ever there was one.  And it hits me square between the eyes.

The Magic of Compounding “Interest”

4 Generations

The older I get, the more “interested” I am in Fatherhood. I am interested because I believe that there is a compounding or cumulative effect of being a good father. Just like there is a compounding effect to our money due to the interest it generates in an investment vehicle, so it is for us a fathers.  A good father begets a good father who begets another good father. And so it goes down through the generations. Or at least it is possible for it to happen that way.

This reality was driven home again today as 4 generations sat around the tables and enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal. We were fortunate to have my father, my son, and my two grandsons with us together for several hours fellowshipping at the table.

I have spoken many times about the impact that my father has had on my life. But up to this point I have not really made many statements about the impact that he is having on subsequent generations. He is a humble man and I will do well to model that as I continue to write this.

So what is the point on Fatherhood Friday?