The Lost Art of the Handshake

And why it really matters.

The Lost Art of the Handshake

You wouldn’t think this sort of article would be necessary, would you?  Unfortunately, it is.  It seems that men shaking hands is a bit of a lost art.

Consider the handshake.  Historical customs indicate that the handshake is commonly done upon meeting, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, or completing an agreement. In sports or other competitive activities, it is also done as a sign of good sportsmanship. Its purpose is to convey trust, balance, and equality.

Let’s Start With the Basics

Handshake 1This is a handshake.

Handshake 2This is not.

Handshake 3Neither is this.

Handshake 5I don’t even know what this is!

Why does a handshake matter?

The importance of a good, strong, firm handshake cannot be overstated. When you shake hands with a leader you figure out pretty quickly what kind of person that you’re dealing with. If you are dealing with a confident person, a serious person, and a person not to be “trifled” with you will receive a solid, firm and strong handshake and you will receive direct eye-contact. If you experience something other than that, you may have doubts about the person you are greeting.

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Leadership in Exile

Where have all the leaders gone?

Leadership in Exile

If that title doesn’t grab your attention, then nothing will. Our political and social structure here in the U.S.A. provides little context for the concept of being an exile. The closest thing that many in our society or culture can come to the ethos of being an exile is the practice among some cultures where one is shunned under certain conditions. But, even that does not really comport with our modern sensibilities.

What do I mean by “Exile”?

So, what do I mean when I use the word “exile” in the context of leadership? To be clear, I am not using that word within the context of a forced departure or a violent takeover that leaves the deposed leader nowhere to go but into hiding in a barren land or to the relative safety of a benevolent benefactor. Instead, I think that I really should be using the term – “self-exile.” Because I believe that there are many leaders who have taken themselves “out of the game” when it comes to leadership. They have opted to, in a sense, go underground and not seek to be a visible or vocal leader. 

Why are they Self-Exiled?

Perhaps that is the greater question? Why are they choosing to vacate their responsibility or opportunity to lead? Consider the following as some reasons that leaders have self-exiled.

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Remember These As Well

Some unconventional leaders to consider on Memorial Day

Remember These As Well

I have seen all week on many of the social media sites that I frequent, that it (Memorial Day) is “not about the BBQ.” And that is certainly true. Today is so much more than an excuse to frolic in the pool and eat as much red meat as possible.

It is easy to get caught up in the activities around Memorial Day and to forget exactly why the holiday was created: to honor those American men and women who died during combat. To put it as succinctly as I can, Memorial Day is for the American troops who didn’t get to come back home and drink a cold Coca-Cola at a homecoming party or march in a parade in their little hometown.

There are many out there like me that never wore the uniform of our Nation and never served on the battlefield. And I, like many, do not know with specificity the experiences and feelings that you have had. So, I will simply say “Thank you!” from one member of this grateful nation.

But, remember these as well

But, we would do well to remember some other fine examples of leadership. Two are no longer with us. And one is still alive today. We would do well to reflect on and remember some historic leaders outside of the U.S. Military that have made an impact on this world and on the cause of freedom, liberty, and prosperity. Consider just a few today.

Margaret Thatcher — She was was Britain’s first female prime minister. She was known for her tough uncompromising, conservative political views, and became nicknamed “The Iron Lady” as a term of both reverence and derision. She, along with Ronald Reagan, forged a relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev that brought the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion.

Consider these words from Margaret Thatcher. —

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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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