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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Leadership Lessons the Hard Way

Being Right Has Nothing To Do With It

Leadership Lessons the Hard Way

I awoke yesterday morning to the terrible news that I lost a dear friend overnight. My friend, Butch Sweeney, could no longer stand to be in this mortal shell. He had suffered tremendously for years. But, he is not suffering today. He is dancing on the streets of Heaven and his amazing tenor voice is being heard loud and clear once again.

But this article today is not merely a tribute to him and to his life. Rather, it is a brief story about one of the toughest leadership lessons I ever learned. Butch taught me that it is not a question of who is right or wrong. It is a question of including all of the stakeholders and “selling” the idea to them first.

The Idea

The idea was that in order to increase the effectiveness and reach of the organization that we both loved and served, a change was necessary to how we served the people of that organization. It was my idea that if we radically altered how we delivered the message to the members, we would see greater attendance, greater involvement, and greater engagement. At least, that was the idea.

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The Truly Humble Don’t Know It

Or, if they do, they are too humble to mention it!

The Truly Humble Don’t Know It

Last week was a blur. I spent the entire week in New Orleans at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s (WBENC) Summit & Salute.

According to their website, “WBENC’s Summit engages participants in a two-day program filled with a focus on the future of various industries, business networking, and development opportunities. The Salute follows the Summit and is a festive evening that highlights America’s Top Corporations for Women Business Enterprises for 2016.

An otherwise typical awards dinner took on special interest to me and to my colleagues when one of our peers was recognized for a life of leadership to various organizations. One of our colleagues had a friend who posted a great description of the award winner. She called her an “iconic and humblest of all souls.” Wow! what a description! Wouldn’t you like to have that said of you?

And the winner is . . . 

The winner of the award was my friend and colleague, Susan Stentz. Susan has spent much of her career supporting women and minority business enterprises. She is a “go to” person on our team. She is a wealth of experience and insight. I, personally, call her on the phone often to answer questions and get her feedback on thoughts and ideas that I have. Everyone on our team recognizes her leadership in this vital area of commercial dealings with potential suppliers.

What is the Leadership Lesson from this?

I think it is simply this. The greatest leaders are great without losing their humility in the process.

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Size Really Does Matter

But, maybe not how you think . . .

Size Really Does Matter

I recently got to spend some time at a working farm and family friendly venue with animals to pet, a hay maze, some slides, a little zip line, and some big trikes and pedal cars. The little track with the trikes and pedal cars provided an interesting lesson in leadership and human nature.

The little track had about 5 or 6 different sizes and styles of self-propelled vehicles. And, invariably, as kids entered the area, they were seemingly “drawn” to the biggest pedal cars on the track. It was almost a metal and magnet kind of attraction. Children would walk right past smaller pedal cars and big trikes and go straight for the biggest pedal cars that they could find.

I watched it happen and here is what happened next. A small child would get to the big pedal car and try to mount it. If they were successful in doing that, they then tried to have their little feet and legs reach the pedals. Only to be disappointed. Most of the time, they were not tall enough to reach the pedals. Oh, they would stretch and strain. But, in the end, their legs just weren’t long enough.

Size Matters

Either the cars were too large for the children, or the children were too short for the cars. I saw it with some of my own grandchildren. They wanted to ride on the biggest car that was out there. They couldn’t resist. But, in either case, there was a size issue. And whether or not it was the size of the child or the size of the cart, it just became frustrating and not a whole lot of fun. Fortunately, the wise old grandfather saw what was going on and was able to coax them onto a smaller and more “size appropriate” vehicle. Then they were able to have some fun.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

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The Value of Perspective

Leaders always need to keep things in perspective

the value of perspective

Perhaps this article today will deal more about life than about leadership. But, who knows? I am just going to let my thoughts flow and see where they take me. Hang on. Here we go!

Comparisons Can Be a Trap

One of the things that I have learned in life is to find a way to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself. However, every once in a while, I allow myself to fall victim to comparisons. I compare what I have (which is a lot by global standards) with that one person that I know that has that one thing that I would like to have. I compare my stuff to his stuff and I determine that I need more stuff.

Leaders Also Fall Into This Trap 

Sometimes we look around and we see that someone we know is really gifted with a particular leadership skill or trait. It is one that we wish we had as well. We compare ourselves and we become dissatisfied. Or worse, we become jealous. At best, it keeps us constantly looking for that one leadership book or seminar that will give us that leadership “mojo” that will surely make us a great leader.

I am currently reviewing an article soon to be published by a very talented organizational health and growth coach who is working out in the real world what he also teaches in the academic world. The opening paragraph of his article recounts his recent “Google” (it is a verb, don’t you know?) of the term “leadership.” He got almost 800 million hits!

Why is that?

I think it is because

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The Value of a Translator

Could you use a little help with your message?

The Value of a Translator

I had an incredible opportunity yesterday to speak on a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. I am currently on a business trip to Bangalore, India and I was given the opportunity to speak on a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. — Legacy Leadership.

There was only one problem. I don’t speak Kannada. There are more than 51 million individuals from the state of Karnataka who do speak it natively and I was asked to speak at a place where the entire day’s activities would be among a group of people with whom there were precious few who had even a limited understanding of English. Most had no understanding at all. That is a tall order for one American who struggles himself from time to time with the English language!

Help! I need a Translator

Fortunately, my host was completely aware of my linguistic shortcomings. And he provided a person who spoke English fluently but was a native Kannadigaru. And he would be my translator and interpreter.

One of the things that became very clear to me very early on in the development of my message was that I had to be crystal clear in my message and concise and succinct in developing any supporting information.

An unexpected problem

I was given twenty minutes. No problem. I can deliver a wealth of information in 20 minutes. Oh, wait a minute.

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Leadership Lesson from the Flu

A Flu Shot Would Have Helped!

Leadership Lesson from the Flu

Influenza-B. The was the emphatic word from the nurse at the after-hours clinic last Monday. That certainly explained why I felt like I had been hit by a freight train. And one of the first questions that she asked me as I walked in was, “Have you had your flu shot?”

Her question bothered e a little. She didn’t ask if I had “A” flu shot. She asked did you have “YOUR” flu shot. She personalized it. She made me take ownership of something that I didn’t actually own nor had I taken advantage of receiving the many times it is offered to employees where I work and many other places for those of us of a certain age and stage of life. But, I had not taken MY flu shot.

Perhaps I should have taken MY flu shot. All of the real medical evidence seems to indicate that if it doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu, it will at least lessen the duration and magnitude of the symptoms. Unfortunately, I like so many, chose to believe otherwise about the efficacy of the annual flu shot.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

The key to learning a leadership lesson from this is to understand what the flu vaccine is, or was.

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