Lincoln – An Uncommon Leader

When the Common Becomes the Uncommon

Lincoln - An Uncommon Leader

There is a lot of renewed interest in former presidents theses days. It has been said that THE greatest job in the world is the job of being the former President. I don’t suppose that I will ever have that job.

Abraham Lincoln and some other great Presidents are the topics of comparison and conversation lately. I heard on the radio today that every great President in history has been associated with a war in one way or another. George Washington – Commander in Chief of the Revolutionary War, Abraham Lincoln – The Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt – World War II, Ronald Reagan – The Cold War. But Lincoln’s name always seems to rise to the top of any list. So, what is the deal with Lincoln? Was he really the greatest president of all time?

A Common Beginning

History tells us that he was born in a log cabin in the frontier area of Kentucky. And that lifestyle was common for so many who were drawn to the frontier in hopes of making a life and owning a piece of land in the expanding federation of states that was the United States of America in the early 1800s. He grew up moving around the Ohio River Valley spending time in the states of Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.

Becoming an Uncommon Leader

Donald T. Phillips wrote a book in 1993 entitled, Lincoln on Leadership. The subtitle was Executive Strategies for Tough Times. In that book, he provides significant insight into leadership principles that Lincoln exhibited and cultivated in others.

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Accidental Leadership

Is that even possible?

Accidental Leadership

There was a famous novel written in 1985 that became an Academy award winning movie in 1988. (The Academy was won in 1989, but who is that picky?) It was called “The Accidental Tourist” and starred one of my favorite actors, William Hurt.

The plot of the story revolves around the dissolving marriage of Macon Leary, played by Hurt in the movie. He is a writer of travel guides. In the story, the logo on the cover of these travel guides is a winged armchair. The visual assumption created by that logo design is that all travel is involuntary, and therefore potentially unpleasant. Macon Leary attempts to spare these poor unsuspecting and involuntary travelers the shock of the unfamiliar by providing keen insights into the locations that will make the traveler more comfortable with their surroundings. For instance, The New York Ties Review said; “Macon Leary will tell you where to find Kentucky Fried Chicken in Stockholm, or whether there’s a restaurant that serves Chef Boy-Ar-Dee ravioli in Rome.”

Accidental

So, I suppose that the term “accidental” really means “involuntary” in the context of that book and movie.

But that thought raises a few very significant question in my mind. And it is this:

“Is it really leading if I don’t know it is happening?” 

Is it possible to be an accidental leader? Is it possible to be an involuntary leader? Can leadership happen and emanate from us and we be completely unaware of that fact?

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How to Recognize True Success

I have had my share of them, also.

True Success

Last week I refreshed an article that I wrote several years ago about leadership failure. And, as promised, here is the follow-up dealing with leadership success. Whenever you write an article like the one on failure last week, there is always a significant amount of trepidation about how it will be received. When you consult with other leaders you always wonder what one of them will think when they read one of your articles. You wonder if they think it is about them.

(Why is there suddenly a Carly Simon song playing in my head)?

Well, today, I hope that all of the leaders that I have worked with over the years think this article is about them much more than some may have wondered about last week’s article.

I have written over 360 articles describing, in some way or another, what it takes to be a superior leader in the home, on the job, in a church or volunteers capacity, and in society. Some researchers and authors claim a superior leader possesses certain traits or abilities innately; others say it is all personality, style, and charisma. Still, others maintain it is the behaviors or actions that I take — if I do this, then my followers will do thus — that are crucial to determining success. Regardless of the how and the why, these are some signs that your followers are indeed following you and that you are succeeding as a leader:

Signs of Leadership Success

There is leadership success when the team catches your Vision. Successful leaders have followers that have a clear understanding of your vision and what it means to them as an individual contributor or follower. You have articulated it to them. And they can now articulate it to others. They see it and they own it. There is no ambiguity. If you ask them on an elevator to describe the vision of the organization, they can express it with clarity and passion.

Ask yourself: Am I surrounded by followers who see the vision that I see? 

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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

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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