Leadership Lessons from a Kid and a Kite

A Valuable Kid and a Cheap Kite

Even as we were engaged in the activity yesterday afternoon, I could feel the inspiration for this article welling up inside of me. And as I stand at my desk today, I am convinced that the value is in the kid and not the kite.

Recently, we went away for the weekend with two of our three grandchildren. My wife, the consummate planner, planned way more activities that we had time for. As a result of that, we had a couple of Dollar Store kites that were not opened and waiting to be tried by the grandkids. So, we walked down to the neighborhood elementary school and we opened the package and took out the kite. We put Rod “A” in Slot “B” and attached String “C” to Ring “D” and we were ready to launch.

There was only one problem. There was not much breeze.

What do you if you are a child and someone hands you a kite? You RUN! You run and pull the kite along as it drifts just a few feet above the ground. You run in giant circles in the parking lot of the school until your little legs are too tired and you collapse onto the ground. Your kite falls to the pavement. No wind = no flying.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

What is the leadership lesson in trying to fly a cheap kite with no wind? It is this.

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What Does Leadership Feel Like?

Is there a leadership “feeling”?

I just couldn’t resist one more article in this series. This last one will deal with how leadership feels — both for the leader and the follower.

Maybe it is more of a “groove” than just a feeling. Maybe it is really nothing more than leadership “mojo.” But, there is an undeniable feeling when you are called to lead and you lead well. So, let’s take a look at how it feels for both the leader and the follower.

How it feels to lead well

Perhaps here is where the word “mojo” fits more than it does for the follower. The feeling that you have when you are leading a team through a project that no one else thought would have a chance of succeeding is almost euphoric. The feeling that you feel when you are communicating clearly and communicating with passion and your team is converting your words into actions is energizing. Perhaps the greatest benefit of those feelings is that they build our confidence and reinforce the sense that we are indeed in the right place at the right time.

However, all of this so far is predicated on the fact that we are leading and succeeding. But, what if we are leading and struggling? What if we are confident in our leadership, but the results are a reason to doubt? How do we deal with those feelings?

It is here that we need to move from feelings, which may be fleeting, and focus on the tried and true leadership principles that have served us well in times past. Focus on the tasks at hand and trust that the “warm” feelings will come with the ultimate success of the project. One of the factors that set great leaders apart is that they do what they know is right and then wait to feel good about the decision. Many wait until they feel good about a decision and then act based on that feeling.

What kinds of feelings do you experience?

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What Does Leadership Sound Like?

Is there a leadership “sound”?

Wow! The feedback that I received from so many of you about the “look” of leadership was amazing. And, even if I had not already planned today’s article as a follow-up, it would be an imperative in light of the interest in the “leadership look.” So, let’s consider if there is a “sound” associated with great leadership.

Leadership has a voice

The site publishing this week’s article is aptly named in my opinion. For, there is indeed a leadership “voice.” Several years ago I wrote an article on whether or not leadership was a quiet or loud activity. The genesis of thought for the article spans from my firstborn’s kindergarten teacher in 1990. If you are interested in that background thought, here is a link to that article.

Communication is the “voice” of leadership

Communication is the voice of leadership. In fact,

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What Does Leadership Look Like?

Is there a leadership “look”?

 

Have you ever done a Google image search for the word “leader?” If you have, you’ve probably noticed a lot of mountain climbing, pointing, flag carrying, and little stick figures that look more like game tokens than they look like leaders. Throw in a person speaking in a microphone or megaphone to a crowd or to a group seated around a conference table and add a few more stick figures where all of them except for one are the same color and that is what leadership looks like. At least that is what Google Images thinks it looks like. Apparently, standing out is a prerequisite.

But, I am not sure I get a clear picture of what a leader looks like based on an image search. Actually, I am pretty sure that I don’t. But it is an interesting exercise nonetheless.

Leadership is a lot like beauty

It is in the eye of the beholder. Or, better stated, it cannot be judged objectively. Rather, it is quite subjective. What one person deems beautiful or admirable may not appeal to another in the least. And when push comes to shove, what we really find attractive may be different than what we have always said.

All through my adolescent years, I would have said that I find petite, dark-haired females the most attractive. Yet, I married a tall Nordic, blue-eyed blond. And I am really glad that I did!

Is leadership like that?

Can we envisage a new leadership look?

Perhaps it is time to reconsider how leadership looks and turn away from the “alpha male” stereotypes and look more at leadership qualities and not weigh physical qualities quite as much. The alternative is to dismiss without much thought the individuals that don’t fit our perception of what a leader looks like. In so doing we will overlook some incredible leaders.

What should we be looking for?

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Improving My Leadership Vision

Is it really worth the process?

My oldest grandson got glasses for the first time this week. It was really fun to observe him seeing the world around him more clearly and more vivid than ever before. He was so excited to see all the way across the family to the little daily chart for school that is taped to the laundry room door. He could read it without having to get up and walk across the room.

I think that I am down to my last pair of contact lenses. It may be worth checking my travel ditty bag for an emergency pair. But, I need to go to the optometrist and get my eyes checked. And that is one of my least favorite activities in the world.

A visit to the optometrist

I have worn glasses since very early in elementary school and I still have trouble with — “Is it better on #1, or #2? Is it better here, or here”? The doctor would flip a dial and ask me over and over again until I finally just made up an answer. I would say emphatically that #2 was better and he would turn a dial, flip a knob and ask the question again. Argh!

At first, I think about the aggravation of going to the optometrist. And then I begin to think about how great it is to be able to see clearly. Suddenly, I am reminded that it is worthwhile to go through the process of choosing between #1 and #2 about 27 times until they can get my new prescription and new contact lenses.

Reflecting on last week’s article

There was a lot of feedback from last week’s article on blind spots. And so, I guess I am just following the optical theme a little more to see where it takes me. In other words, I am wondering what we are willing to do in order to improve our leadership vision? 

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Blind Spots — We all have them

How does the Emotionally Agile Leader deal with them?

Blind spots. We all have them. Yes, even YOU have them. For many of us, these blind spots are related to those traits or behaviors of those that we hold most dear. For some, they are about areas of our own traits and behaviors.

What is a “blind spot?”

An optometrist would tell you that it is a scotoma. It is a small area that exists where no vision is present. One of these occurs naturally in every person because the light-sensitive layer – the retina – is not continuous. There is a tiny gap in the retina where the optic nerve, which takes the visual information to the brain, leaves the eye. We are not normally aware of this blind spot because the brain “ignores” this small patch of missing information and “fills in” the area with other information that the brain knows about whatever is the field of vision. Pretty cool, huh?

What does it have to do with leadership and emotional agility?

As leaders, we all have certain areas within our leadership scope that we do not see with the ease and accuracy with which we see other areas. As I said at the outset, many times the blind spot is that young leader that we are mentoring that is getting on the nerves of every other person on the team. But, because we have developed a great deal of affection for them, we may not see some of the rough edges that everyone else sees. It is in our blind spot and we don’t even know that it is there because we don’t “see” it.

Likewise, the same can be said of our own behaviors. We have a habit or a behavior that is so ingrained us that we assume that it is normal and that everyone else accepts it as normal. Maybe we interrupt others when they are talking. We don’t think we are interrupting, we just have this really important and relevant thing to share and we just can’t help but blurt it out. Everyone else in the meeting cringes or just stops contributing because they don’t like being interrupted and we don’t even realize that we have hurt them and stifled their participation.

How do we fix it?

The first step is to be open to the possibility, and reality, that we have blind spots. Once we do, then we become open to determining where they are and how to fix them. Here are some ways to fix them:

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EI’s Most Challenging Relationships

Friends that sometimes make you want to scream!

I had the opportunity to speak recently to a group of senior level staff and leaders from various organizations. My topic was “E.I. for the Job Seeker.” And it took the basic tenets of EI/EQ and applied them to those in a career transition.

The speech was well-received. (At least I think it was.) Questions and answer times at the end of any presentation can be challenging for the presenter. You never know what someone will ask. And there is always that one person in the audience that wants to play “Stump the Band.” All the folks born after the 30 year run of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show ended in 1992 may need to look up the “Stump the Band” reference.

Up, Down, Sideways

One of the questions posed can be paraphrased as such: “What relationship is hardest to manage — with your boss, with your staff, or with your peers?”

It did not take me long to respond that it is the peer relationships that can be the most challenging in most environments. Here is why.

Upward Facing Relationships – These are defined by my desire to understand and to satisfy the requirements established by my boss. The more I understand them, the clearer they are to me, and the higher my chances of succeeding because of that understanding and clarity.

Downward Facing Relationships – These are defined by my desire to communicate the goals and objectives that I have received through the upward facing relationship. Once communicated and understood, I can establish accountability and checkpoints along the way that will gauge our success.

Sideways Relationships – Here is where the difficulty arises for so many. Because they are peer relationships, they often lack the structure and lines of accountability that exist in the other two relationships. The lack thereof can sometimes lead to behaviors that would be tolerated or even considered in the other two relationships. And that is why they can be so difficult.

How do we define these “sideways” relationships?

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A Need for New Founding Fathers

Today is about more than buying mattresses or new cars

Today is “President’s Day.” Today we honor some of the founding “fathers” of our nation. I feel like calling them the founding “leaders” today. I think that sounds appropriate, don’t you?

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday. So, any of my non-U.S. readers can take a quick nap. But come back toward the end for the leadership application. Traditionally, it is celebrated on the third Monday in February. It was originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington. The one most known as a Founding Father. And, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the U.S. federal government.

Just a little history

Many years ago, it was celebrated on February 22nd — George Washington’s actual day of birth. However, the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was relocated on the calendar as part of the U.S. Congress’s 1971 Uniform Monday Holiday Act in an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s hard-working citizens. While a few states still honor the actual individual days honoring the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Presidents’ Day is now seen as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

I will resist the temptation to comment on individual presidents that I liked or disliked. That would

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Lead Big or Lead Small

Leadership Lessons from an Afternoon at Monster Jam

Sometimes leading small is really leading big.

It is human nature for most folks, when given a choice, to choose the big piece of pie instead of the smaller piece. Leaders are no different. There are some really great books out there that talk about servant leadership and one with the title, Leaders Eat Last. It was inspired by an interview between Simon Sinek and Lt. Gen. George Flynn, USMC Ret.

In that interview, Sinek asked Flynn to try and summarize what made the Marine Corps leadership style unique among the various branches of the military. Flynn said it was quite simple; it was because “Officers eat last”. This concept is both fundamental and intentional. And it exemplifies what makes the Marine Corps such an extraordinarily tight-knit unit. In chow-halls all across the globe Marines line up for their food each day with the most junior ranking Marines getting their food and eating first. Their officers eat last.

Just like in the pivotal courtroom seen in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, you will not find this procedure in the Marine Corps handbook. Nor is it communicated at roll call. It’s just the way that Marine leadership teaches responsibility from recruit class to recruit class and into the rank and file of the Marine Corps.

So what does this have to do with leading big or small?

We go back to human nature. And we go back to some of the common personality traits of leaders. They are usually not shy and reclusive. And they have no problem standing up for themselves or their people. And they usually have substantial egos. And they are generally motivated to succeed. Those are not bad traits. But they also tend to want to grow and leader bigger and bigger teams and seek to influence on a larger scale when offered the chance.

I am still not sure what this has to do with leading big or small!

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Emotional Intelligence

A Primer or a Refresher? 

I have not always been a “reader”. Most of my reading over the years has been to my children and grandchildren. It is only in the last several years that I acquired any taste for books. And my tastes in reading material vary widely. But several years ago, I had a book suggested to me by a fellow leadership coach. He recommended the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. Immediately I started using this book with many of my leadership coaching clients and I think it is worthy to provide a primer to the uninitiated or a refresher with the broader Leadership Voices audience.

The book has a foreword by Patrick Lencioni. Many of you will recognize him as the author of Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Death by Meeting. If you are into great titles, those are a couple of great ones. As Lencioni proclaims in the foreword, he’s no expert in this field, but he sees everyday how critical a skill it is to have and he’s so enthusiastic about this book because it’s the first he’s read that actually shows you how to increase your EQ and apply it in your personal and professional life.

The opening chapter deals with Emotional Intelligence (EI) and your Emotional Quotient (EQ) and compares and contrasts it with the more well-known IQ. The chapter describes what EQ is and what it isn’t. For example, a lot of people mistakenly think that EQ is a part of your personality. To the contrary, EQ is separate from your personality, just as it is separate from your intellect, or IQ. It begins to build your understanding of emotions by showing what the five core emotions look like in varying degrees of intensity. Next, the team of Bradberry and Greaves explain research studies that illustrate how important EQ is in daily living. They show how your EQ impacts things like your tolerance for change, how you manage stress, and even how much money you make.

What Emotional Intelligence Looks Like: Understanding the Four Skills

The book introduces and explains Daniel Goleman’s four EQ skills: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. Beyond a conceptual description of the skills, the book provides detailed vignettes showing examples of real people who are high or low in each of the skills.

To truly improve your ability in the four emotional intelligence skills, you need to better understand each skill and what it looks like in action.

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