Would you rather . . .

. . . have some of something or all of nothing?

Would you rather . . .

There is a game going around. It is been popularized in a movie from 2012 by the same name. It is called, “Would you rather”. And it has been spread throughout the culture via its popularity on social media sites such as “Reddit” and “BuzzFeed.” It is also available in an on-line version on http://either.io.

The question that seems to be the most fitting for the events in Washington, DC is this: “Would you rather have some of something or all of nothing?”

I am watching this health care legislation work its way through the U.S. Congress. And it is providing incredible insight into what leaders do when faced with two fiercely opposing positions. Now, I do not, for one second, care about your political affiliation or the direction to which you lean. My concern today is about the leadership implications of each of the options — some of something, or all of nothing.

If you are a leader, you will have to face a similar (albeit a smaller scale) scenario where you will be in a situation where there are two competing interests. You will face a situation where neither side seems initially willing to negotiate or to compromise. What is the role of a leader in this situation? What is the “right” thing to do?

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When to Charge Ahead

And When to Leave it Alone

When to Charge Ahead

How do we determine when we are to charge ahead as leaders or leave it alone and deal with it another day?

Never put off until tomorrow . . . 

We have all been taught in elementary school that we should not put off until tomorrow a kindness that we can do today. But what about a tough decision that we must make as a leader? Is there ever a situation where we would want to put that off for another time down the road? 

When? That is the question!

When is it right to charge ahead and take the bull by the horns and lead in the midst of a difficult situation? And when is it right to stand back and leave the issue alone and take a more relaxed and non-confrontational approach? These are legitimate questions that I have wrestled with in my own mind for many years. I have been guilty of rushing in too hard, too fast, or too soon. And I have been equally guilty of ignoring or turning away from a situation that had a whole lot of downside and very little upside that would drain all of my mental or emotional energy.

The problem is in knowing when to charge ahead and seize the moment. And knowing when to relax and take a more measured approach to the issue that faces us.

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More Than Goal Setting

One of the Myths of Leadership

More Than Goal Setting

I was walking back to my hotel room today to check out from a weeklong conference that I have been attending. And I overheard two people walking directly in front of me. One said to the other, “You know, the key to great leadership is goal setting.”

I wanted to stop them in their tracks and open a conversation with them. But, I am tired. And I am sure they are tired from this conference. I wanted to tell them that leadership is so much more.

So much more?

Yes! If it was as simple as just setting goals, then we could just boil the process down to a mathematical formula. Assign a numerical value to each of an organization’s objectives and put them in order. That will give you your organization’s goals in a ranked priority. Simple. But, leadership is not about “goal setting” as much as it is about “goal planning”, then “goal execution”, and finally “goal achievement.”

So, what is a leader to do?

Leadership has a lot of responsibilities regarding goal setting. Consider these:

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Is It Still Worth A Try?

Coming Back from Exile

Is It Still Worth A Try?

Is it still worth a try? I believe that it is still worth it. At least I think so. What is the “it” in this statement? The “it” is the desire to return from exile.

Two weeks ago I looked at the issue of Leadership in Exile. We discussed the fact that many leaders are self-exiled. And that they are such by their own choice based on their own experience or circumstance. And I concluded that article with some example of some leaders who were self-exiled and some examples of what they did during that period of their lives.

Why were you in “exile” in the first place?

It is worth a quick look back at some of the reasons some have been in exile.

  • Exhaustion — You got really tired. Have you gotten some rest?
  • Frustration — You got really frustrated with your situation. Has it changed at all?
  • Lack of Followship — You looked around and no one was following? Have you figured out why that was the case?
  • Lack of Support — You had no support from your leader. Is there new leadership above you? Or have they gotten better as a leader?
  • Viewed as a Threat — You were viewed as a threat to existing leadership or the status quo. Has the situation changed or has your leader gotten more confident in themselves or in your ability to lead without feeling threatened?

Is it time to return from exile?

If we have self-exiled, then we have the power to re-enter the leadership arena, right? The question we constantly ask ourselves serves as the title of this article — “Is it still worth a try?”

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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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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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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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