Ignorant or Oblivious Leaders

Is there any real difference?

Are You Ignorant or Oblivious?

Did you have a chance yet to read my article on the importance of “thinking” from last week? If not, I think it is well worth the few moments to step back and read that one first to get a baseline.

Just like that old saying that I found in an old frame, I know that there are some things that I know. And I know there are some things that I don’t know. The problem is that there are potentially a lot of things that I don’t know that I don’t know. Do you know?

That sounds almost like a line from a Gilbert & Sullivan musical. For those of you who are not theater buffs or who are under the age of 50, go “Google it.”

There were a lot of comments sparked and conversations started about the importance of knowledge and awareness of our own leadership situation. And those comments and conversations have caused me to want to take another look at this issue of ignorance and obliviousness.

There is a difference

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Thoughts on Thinkers

Leadership Lessons from a British Journal from 1866

Thoughts on Thinkers

I don’t know very many folks who don’t know the cliché, “Ignorance is bliss.” But I am wondering today just how many know where the phrase comes. It comes from a poem written in 1742 by Thomas Gray. The phrase is in the closing lines to his poem entitled, “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.” And the full sentence is:

Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.

There are many thoughts as to Gray’s purpose for ending his poem with such words. In those final lines, he may be expressing thoughts on returning to his old school and there remembering the simplicity and innocence of his youth. It also appears that he is joining two worlds together in this line of the poem. He is joining a world that has not grown up yet with one that has. In a sense, it is a world that shaped him into a man and perhaps, as with many, has beaten out those innocent aspirations of early life.

The modern day interpretation of the lines in the poem and the implications of the cliché are significant if examined in the light of leadership principles. The implications can be summed up in these two statements:

  • You are more comfortable if you don’t know something.
  • Lack of knowledge results in happiness.

Statement number one is pretty bad. I am never comfortable in the state of lack of knowledge. In fact, it scares me and motivates me to seek after knowledge and understanding. Statement number 2 is downright ridiculous. Happiness is not a state of intellectual ascent. Rather, happiness is a conscious decision to maintain a positive and joyous outlook on life regardless of the circumstances.

So, what is the leadership principle here?

It is to be reminded of our responsibilities as leaders to work on every aspect offer leadership skillset. Specifically, the area of “thinking” or “reason.”

Too many leaders are quite comfortable in their ignorance. They are comfortable because they are not fully engaged or aware of what is going on within the organization that they lead.

Awareness and knowledge carry additional responsibilities. If I am aware of a need or am aware of deficiency within myself, then I am now accountable for that knowledge.

I do not blame these leaders who are “unaware” per se. And blame may be a little strong in this instance. Although it is the leader’s responsibility to assure that they are aware of what is going on in the organization. Further, it is the leader’s responsibility to actively seek feedback from those around them regarding their performance as a leader. And it is the leader’s responsibility to develop their leadership skills on an ongoing basis.

This is not a new problem!

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Leaders and Conflict

What can you do about it?

Leaders and Conflict

I have been thinking a lot lately about conflict and conflict resolution. I think we can all agree that some level of conflict is unavoidable. However, how we face it and whether or not we resolve that conflict says a great deal about our own leadership styles and abilities.

Consider the following statement by Warren Bennis, one of the foremost writers on leadership and organizational and management theory.

“Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.” 

Leaders, this is one of your primary responsibilities. You cannot delegate this to one of your followers. Nor can you pretend that conflicts do not occur within the organization that you lead.

Conflict is unavoidable

I have spent much of my adult life working in the corporate world during the week and serving in a non-profit and volunteer organization on weeknights and weekends. And let me assure you that conflict is common to all organizations. Yes, you will even find conflict within churches and religious organizations. But we, as leaders, have the responsibility to sense conflict at its earliest stages and resolve it before it affects the entire organization.

True leaders do not avoid it nor do they run from conflict. I am not suggesting that they go and seek it out or that they invent it where it does not exist. But, great leaders must lead in times of calm and in times of conflict.

Conflict must be resolved

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The Persistent Pursuit of Leadership – Baidu

How persistent are you?

Persistent Pursuit of Leadership

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

I learned a lot on that first business trip back in 2014. And I learned some stuff in some very unexpected ways.

Most of the people that I spoke to while I was there about this did not really feel a sense of loss. Perhaps that is because they do not know what they are missing. Or, perhaps it is because 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.

Baidu Logo - LargeThe name, Baidu, 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 glamor 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?

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The Tough Questions

Leadership Lesson from an Unusual Source

the-toughquestions

This is the time of year when many of us as leaders are “asking the tough questions” about our organizations. It is the time of year when we seek to evaluate and assess how our organization has performed and whether or not we have accomplished our goals in this last year.

I live in two worlds. One is a for-profit entity within the corporate world. That industry has been impacted significantly by the economic downturn and some economic policies that many folks would argue are hurtful and damaging to our opportunities to succeed. These economic times have caused us to reexamine our performance and how we go about our daily business. We have always prided ourselves in being an incredibly efficient organization. Much more so than our competitors. Well, these economic conditions have provided the opportunity to prove that theory. We know how to and we ask tough questions on a daily basis.

My other life is within the non-profit world. I spend as much, if not more energy, working in that world. It is painfully obvious that this world does not know how to ask these kinds of questions. Oh, we give “lip service” to asking them. But we really don’t.

Perhaps that is because these organizations are non-profit and ministry organizations. So, we feel that asking that kind of question would be too business-like, mean, or “un-Christian.” And when we do ask questions, they are usually not the right questions. And they certainly aren’t tough questions. They are usually softball questions or questions that don’t really offer any hope of getting to any root causes or issues.

The Unusual Source

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Thought Leadership

Can You Be a Thought Leader?

can-you-be-a-thought-leader

There was not as much backlash as I had anticipated. I was expecting a much stronger reaction from the leadership community where I hang out most of the time. There are many who do not look upon this as being “real” leadership. But, there are many that do.

And all of that prompts a question. “Can you be a thought leader?”

Can You Be a Thought Leader?

The question itself almost indicates that being a thought leader is something that we should seek after. And if it is, can you become one?

Just like some basic leadership skills that can be developed over time, basic thought leadership skills can be developed as well. Having said that, everyone can become a thought leader to some degree.

Thought leadership takes time (it takes a lot of time), it takes knowledge, and it takes a recognized expertise in a particular field or endeavor. Further, it takes a certain level of confidence in your own ability, a commitment to pursue excellence, and a willingness to go against the grain or to challenge the way things have always been done.

One of the challenges that exists today in many organizations is the creation and staffing of “Centers of Excellence.” More often than not these are staffed with young, talented folks who have lots of potential. They may even have advanced degrees that were tucked on immediately to their undergraduate work. Their degrees are impressive. So, let’s make them “thought leaders” and put them in a COE.

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Thought Leadership

Is “Thought Leadership” Really Leadership?

thought-leadership

I am prepared for some potential backlash from my topic today. The article title may indicate a preconceived notion about thought leadership. But, in reality, I have not already made up my mind. So, it is a legitimate question.

“Is thought leadership actually leadership?”

 

What is Thought Leadership?

Wikipedia provides this definition: A thought leader can refer to an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.

However, one man’s definition is another man’s example of useless business jargon. Have you ever played “Buzzword Bingo?” This is a game often played as an ice-breaker in strategic sessions where players are given “bingo cards” with words like “Thought Leader”, “Out of the Box”, “Metrics”, “Takeaways”, and “Paradigm” are placed in a grid and players are instructed to place an “X” over each word as they hear them throughout the event and then shout “Buzzword Bingo” when the get 5 in a row. Therefore, thought leadership, unfortunately may be just another buzzword with no real substance or meaning.

Is this Thought Leadership?

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Building Leaders: A Better Model

If creating more leaders is the main goal, why do we spend so much time creating followers?

building-leaders_

Outside of the moral absolutes that we would all commonly accept, there really aren’t a wholly agreed upon set of absolutes for the many pursuits of our lives. And, although I would reject moral relativism, I do accept a certain continuum when it comes to leadership and leadership development.

What does that mean?

That means that there is an acceptable continuum of leadership skills, goals, and objectives. However, my experiences over the last two Sunday afternoons have reinforced within me the objective of creating more leaders and not just more followers. So, toward that end, let’s look at that a little more, shall we?

The kind of leadership that I want to focus on is the kind of leadership that differentiates itself from just good leadership. The differentiator that separates good leaders from great leaders is one that creates other leaders.

While good leaders excel at motivating their followers to do what they are asked, great leaders motivate followers to develop and become leaders themselves. Good leaders only lead followers. Great leaders lead, create, and develop other leaders.

So, if you want to build an organization that endures, you must realize that having good leaders is not enough. You must build an entire culture of leadership throughout your organization that cultivates an environment where great leaders are empowered to create leaders to go out and replicate and even improve upon the foundation laid for them.

What is a Culture of Leadership?

What does it mean to have a leadership culture in your organization? In an organization that has embraced a culture of leadership, all individuals (and not just those that have the words “VP” or “Chief” on their business cards) are expected to think like and to act like leaders. But, what does a leader “think” like and “act” like?

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Be Teachable

Are You a Teachable Leader?

be-teachable

They are called “Teachable Moments” and we assume that we are the “teacher” in those moments. But, have you ever considered that you might be the one in need of a little teaching?

What exactly is a Teachable Moment?

According to Beth Lewis, “a teachable moment is an unplanned opportunity that arises in the classroom where a teacher has an ideal chance to offer insight to his or her students. A teachable moment is not something that you can plan for; rather, it is a fleeting opportunity that must be sensed and seized by the teacher.”

Did you notice the emphasis on the teacher? In most scenarios, the teacher is the leader. However, in all of my research, I found very little information about the importance of the moment from the student’s perspective. In fact, it was as though the students just stumbled into the moment and thank goodness the teacher was there to save them.

But what if it is the leader that has a teachable moment? Are you, as a leader, teachable? Do you have a humble and open spirit to what others may have to say to you? Are there people in your life who can speak truth, hard truth at times, into your life?

What are the teachable moments for a leader?

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20 Things You Need In A New Leader

Is it time for a change in your organization?

20-things-you-need-in-a-new-leader

Perhaps we don’t really “need” a new leader. Maybe we just really “want” it. Do you ever feel that way?

Change is inevitable. I know, that is so cliché. That doesn’t make it any less true. Leadership change is often needed when organizations have plateaued, been through a crisis, or leaders have taken themselves out of the picture for various reasons. In each of those cases, someone must take a hard look at the organization and the needs of all the parties concerned and select another leader.

What are some things that an organization should consider in selecting a new leader? Consider with me the following as a partial list of key skills, abilities, traits, or tendencies. It is not an exhaustive list by any stretch. But it may spur some thoughts and ideas as an organization moves forward with seeking and selecting new leadership.

They must possess Leadership Abilities– This one almost goes without saying. When selecting a leader, make sure they have demonstrated leadership somewhere and some place before you bring them into your organization.

They Must Demonstrate Past Performance / Results – When searching for a new leader, do your research. Check out the leadership candidate. Has he/she demonstrated strong leadership in the past? Do they get results?

They Must Realize That They Are Part of Something Bigger – Each of us is a part of a much larger organization. And we should consider that we are building something that is larger than our local organization and it should fit well with the larger organization.

They Must Show That They Have Learned From Past Mistakes – Everybody makes them. How does the leadership candidate show that they have learned from mistakes made in the past?

They Must Show That They Can Fit Within the System or Personality of the Organization – Does the candidate mesh with the organization’s overall system or personality? If not, you are destined for conflict.

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