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

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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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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Knowing Your Place

When Leaders Act Differently Than We Expect

Knowing Your Place

It was the last night of my stay at the very luxurious Ritz-Carlton in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Apparently someone had alerted the General Manager that I would be leaving very early the following morning. So, he came to my dinner table in the dining room to introduce himself and to say “Thank you” for my extended stay It had been a 3 and a half week stay at his hotel. It was soon after our brief discussion ended that I saw an extraordinary example of true servant leadership.

A woman was struggling with a large balloon bouquet and a suitcase. In addition to the most senior person in the hotel, there were several other general staff in the very near vicinity. They probably saw her as well. And then he did it.

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Emotionally Adept Leaders

The Case for EI is the Case for EA

Emotionally Adept Leaders

To make a case for one of them is to also make the case for the other. Because to truly grasp Emotional Intelligence (EI) and not put it into practice in every area of life would be to deny by your actions that you really “get it” when it-comes to the topic of EI.

I am in the process of writing a book on the topic of what it means to take Emotional Intelligence beyond just “knowing” and onto the important steps of incorporating that knowledge into our daily lives. In other words, becoming emotionally “adept” and not just full of knowledge that is never applied to how we live our lives. I am terming this, becoming “Emotionally Adept” and it is part of the overall process of becoming an “Emotionally Adept Leader.”

However, before I continue and expand on what it is to be emotionally adept, I should probably set the background for those not familiar with EI or reset the background for those that are familiar.

High-level Summary of EI.

By now, many of you have read the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. So, just what is emotional intelligence? The quick answer is to say that there are four components of emotional intelligence that best define it. The first two are about yourself, while the remaining two are concerning others or those around you.

Self- consciousness (Being aware of one’s own emotions) 

Knowing yourself and being conscious of your emotions is the first component of emotional intelligence. Becoming aware of

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Nice Guys Finish Last

The Lost Art of Calendar Discipline

Nice Guys Finish Last

Maybe nice guys don’t finish “last.” But they often finish “late.” What do I mean when I say that?

One of the most glaring leadership issues that I observe on an all too frequent basis is a lack of calendar disciple. Calendar discipline is the internal discipline to make sure that as much as in me lies, to start a meeting on time and to finish a meeting on time. To be transparent here, this is a personal pet peeve and a Quixotic quest to always be punctual in starting and ending my meetings. I learned many years ago that although you can be too late for a meeting or an event, you cannot usually be too early.

This discipline is especially important when we are scheduled in back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings. As soon as I start or end a meeting late, I begin a chain of events that will have a negative impact on people that are not even aware of it yet. And that chain reaction may cause them to then miss their committed time for their meetings and events that have nothing to do with my meetings and events.

A colleague of mine from many years ago had a little maxim that he quoted about his daily work habits. He said:

“Each day I have two goals. The first is to get to work on time. The second is to go home on time. And just because I fail at the first goal, it does not mean that I need to fail at the second.”

It was meant in humor, but there is a ring of truth to it that we can apply to getting ourselves back on schedule.

Why does this seem to happen?

This thing tends to happen because as leaders we try to be too nice. I realize that this article may seem to be a contradiction to my most recent article. But bear with me.

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Real Leaders Care

Are you compassionate?

Real Leaders Care

There is a story that is told of an old lady who came to the post office frequently to buy stamps. And that story presents us with a leadership trait that we would all do well to develop.

It seems as though she was a fragile and frail senior citizen. She showed up one day during the busy Christmas season and queued up in the line to buy stamps. Unfortunately, the line wound its way around the inside of the post office and spilled out onto the sidewalk outside.

A concerned customer behind her said as he pointed to a stamp machine built into the far wall, “Ma’am, you must be getting very tired. Did you know there’s a stamp machine over there in the lobby?”

“Why yes, thank you, dear,” the elderly lady replied, “but I’ll just wait here a little while longer. It’s nearly my turn now.”

The good Samaritan became almost insistent. “But, it’d be so much easier for you to avoid this long line if you’d buy your stamps from the machine.”

The kind old woman patted him on the arm, and answered, “Oh I know that, sweetie but that machine on the wall would never ask me how my grandchildren are doing.”

There it was. Did you get it? Did you see the leadership trait that is so important for us to exhibit?

What is the leadership trait?

It is this.

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Are You Likable?

Is it better to be liked or respected?

Are You Likable

I want to be liked. I think that everyone wants to be liked. Do you want to be liked?

The question today is this: Do we need to be liked to be an effective leader?

I am going to speak from a male perspective today. If you are a female, read on. It may be insightful for you to further see how men think and process information. But I am speaking today from a male viewpoint.

What is that point of view?

There is something inside a man that longs for respect. And I think that many, if not most men would choose respect over love if they had to make such a choice. So, what do we do with that reality?

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Are You a Courageous Leader? 

Or, are you a cowardly leader?

Are You a Courageous Leader?

If you were to list the top adjectives that best describe a leader that is worthy of following, what words would be on that list?

For many of us, words like “strong, determined, confident, tough, and courageous” would probably be near the top of each of our lists, don’t you think? Most of us like our leaders to be reflective of those adjectives. Everyone loves a heroic character.  It doesn’t have to always end in “success” for us to be drawn to a leader. Sometimes they just have to have that Winston Churchill “Never give up!” spirit for us to find them worthy to follow.

Now consider this as a contrast.

When you list adjectives that describe a highly functioning and successful team, what words would be on that list?

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Leadership Capital – Part 3 

Spending Your Leadership Capital

Leadership Capital - Part 3

In my first article on this topic, I discussed just what is “Leadership Capital” and what are the components that make it up. And in the second, I discussed how we accumulate and increase our supply. In the final installment, we will take a look at spending that capital – and spending it wisely.

As hard as it is to come by, it certainly seems to be flowing out at a faster pace than it does flowing into our leadership “account.”  Yet, I finished my last article urging you to spread it around as a means of accumulating more.

Where Do I Spend My Leadership Capital?

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