Are You Certified? 

No, but, I am probably certifiable!

I had a vigorous debate several days ago with a recognized leader for a global organization. He oversees a region of more than 100 local affiliates. He is a “legit” leader. There is much upon which we agree. And there is much upon which we do not agree when it comes to leadership and leadership development.

One topic of debate for us on a recent afternoon was on the value of certification when it comes to some of the tools or methodologies that are prevalent in leadership development today. I am a huge proponent of some of them and consider myself a bit of an expert in one or two of them. I just have never bothered to become “certified.” The leader that I was discussing this was fairly adamant in the necessity and value of certification. That, of course, got me thinking and pondering.

The Wright Brothers

Do you suppose anyone ever asked the Orville and Wilbur Wright if they were certified aeronautical engineers?

History tells us that they were actually tinkerers and small business men with a passion for flight. They gained the mechanical skills and experience necessary for their ultimate success by working for years in their shop with printing presses, bicycles, motors, and other gadgets. Some of which they invented or otherwise modified and improved. Their work with bicycles, in particular, influenced their belief that an unstable vehicle like some sort of flying machine could be controlled and balanced by a person with enough natural talent, skill, and practice.

Did you get that? They believed, as do I, that talent, skill, and practice are what really matters when it comes to increasing the potential for success. Not certification!

Thomas Edison

Let’s look at one more guy that was not certified. Consider Thomas Edison for a few moments. Edison, “The Wizard of Menlo Park”, has been called “America’s Greatest Inventor.” Here is a kid who only attended school for a short time and ended up being homeschooled by his mother with much of his education coming from reading rather than formal education. Yet he has given us the phonograph, movie camera, and the lightbulb, just to name a few. And his legacy lives on in the form of General Electric which made the inaugural Fortune 500 list and debuted in the top 10 on that list.

Not bad for an out of work telegraph operator and a seller of candy and newspapers on the railroad.

What made the Wright brothers and Edison successful?

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Don’t Wait To Be Called; Mobilize Others; Take Risks

Three Characteristics of How Leaders Respond in a Crisis

I was checking in with a friend of almost 20 years who lives south of the city of Houston. When hurricanes come to Houston, they usually hit him first. So, we were checking on each other. That’s what friends do.

He also mentioned during our conversation that I was probably developing several leadership articles from the events and activities over the last 6 days. He was right. I wrote one before the rain even began to fall. A friend provided a symbiotic article on Monday. And here we go on Thursday night with some of my thoughts so far on leadership lessons from Hurricane Harvey.

What does real leadership look like in a crisis?

I have a friend. His name is David. Actually, he is really an acquaintance. In fact, I haven’t ever actually met him in person. Although I would certainly like to. I would like to shake his hand and tell him what an amazing leader he is. For I have been following his exploits on Facebook for the past 6 days.

Houston is not your typical city. We are deeply independent and we believe in the value of self-reliance and responsibility. So, while many in similar circumstances would sit and wait for the police, fire, or other government entity to come and rescue those in need, folks like David dive in (literally!) and rescue those whose lives are in danger.

Watching David over the last 6 days has shown me a few things about leadership in new and fresh ways. Here are some things that I have watched over the time that Hurricane Harvey was wreaking havoc on Houston.

Leaders don’t wait to be called

The rain was still falling. In fact, we were still in the worst of the storm and David, a former special operations combat veteran, left the comfort of his own home and grabbed his gear and waded out into the water and then swam to trapped folks and began to rescue them.

No one called David. At least not externally. He was called by an inner voice that told him to get up, go out, and use his unique skills for the sake of his fellow Houstonians. Day after day he would perform heroic acts and then report back to his wife via Facebook about his rescues and recount not the heroics, but the humor and craziness that he experienced throughout the day.

No one called him. He just went.

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Be Compelling

Leadership Basics

be-compelling

I think that I have mentioned before that I just love a good quote. Today, I return to a quote that I wrote about several years ago. It deals with the need for us to be “compelling” leaders.

Here it is:

“So why do we remember him? We remember him because nothing is more compelling than a good man in an evil time.”

Just let that sink in a moment.

The speaker was Charles Chaput, the archbishop of Philadelphia. And I was listening to a speech given on July 8, 2013, at the National Shrine in Washington, DC. In his speech, he centered his thoughts around a well-known military and political leader.

He quotes from this leader’s own words written while on a military campaign Germany. Apparently, he kept a diary. And some of his words are worth sharing today because they gave rise to Archbishop Chaput’s words that so captivated me.

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Be Succinct

Veni, vidi, vici

be-succinct

In 47 B.C., Julius Caesar is asked for a report on his recent military exploits. The Roman Senate seeks to know what has happened out on the eastern edges of the Empire. His response: “Veni, vidi, vici.”

In English, it is translated as: “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

That is about as succinct as it can be. In it there is a statement about logistics — I came, a statement about planning — I saw, and a statement about the execution of the plan — I conquered.

What are the leadership implications of communicating like Caesar?

I think that confident leaders have a brevity of speech that still communicates powerfully and effectively. That confidence allows them to shortcut much of the chatter and the nonsense of much of our communication. Leaders at the highest levels do not have the luxury of “small talk” with any and all that they must deal with. So, they adapt their style and take a minimalist approach.

Normally, my articles on leadership topics range from 500-750 words. But, today, I am taking my own advice and practicing a briefer approach. This one is less than half of that. And so, I leave you with a picture

Click here to read the rest of the article »

The Holy Trinity of Combat

Leadership Lessons from Special Warfare

The Holy Trinity of

First and foremost, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. I recently received my Merry Christmas and “Year in Review” from a friend and former teammate, and was reminded of some things that I hadn’t thought about in a while. I thought there was a leadership lesson in there as well. Plus, this is the perfect time of year to consider three things.

In the special warfare community, there is something called, “The Holy Trinity of Combat” and it is Buddies, Weapons and Options. I am going to try and explain them in the next few paragraphs and apply them to leadership so please bear with me for a few more minutes. I promise there is a point here.

First, there is BUDDIES. This applies to our teammates. Where are they? Where are they in relation to the enemy? And last but not least is what is our ability to fight? This was first in our trinity because it was important to know where your teammates are, where are they in relation to the goal and what is everyone’s status or injury? Chances were always good we were outnumbered so moving and fighting as a team was paramount.

What is the leadership point here?

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Leadership Lessons from the Battle of Shiloh

Leadership Lessons from the Battle of Shiloh

What if we just pressed on a little farther?

That is the question that haunted the generals of the Confederate Army after the Battle of Shiloh.

As I noted last week, I am working my way through an historical novel about the Battle of Shiloh. It is also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing. The battle took place over two days in early April in 1862.

Early on the morning of April 6th in 1862, 40,000 Confederate soldiers under the command of General Johnston poured out of the nearby woods and attacked a line of Union soldiers occupying ground near Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. The overpowering Confederate offensive drove the unprepared Union forces from their camps and threatened to overwhelm General Ulysses S. Grant’s entire army.

Some Union forces made determined stands and by afternoon, they had established a battle line in an area that became known as the “Hornet’s Nest.” Repeated Confederate attacks failed to carry the Hornet’s Nest. But their superior artillery helped to turn the tide as Confederates surrounded the Union troops and captured, killed, or wounded most. Among the first day’s casualties, Confederate General Johnston was mortally wounded and was replaced by General Beauregard.

Fighting continued until after dark, but the Union troops held on precariously.

It was at this point that

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Victory Is As Exhausting As Defeat

Shiloh Cannon

I am deep into the pages of a historical novel from the Civil War era and that is set at the time of the Battle of Shiloh.

For those of you who are not history buffs or military enthusiasts, I offer the following short synopsis of the battle.

The Battle of Shiloh was a major battle in the Civil War, It was fought Sunday and Monday, April the 6th and 7th of 1862, in the southwestern part of Tennessee. The Union army under Major General Ulysses S. Grant had moved via the Tennessee River deep into Tennessee and was encamped principally near a little church at a place called Pittsburg Landing on the west bank of the river. It was there that Confederate forces under Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and Pierre G. T. Beauregard launched a surprise attack on Grant’s army. General Johnston was killed in action during the fighting and Beauregard, who thus succeeded to command of the army, mate the fateful decision against pressing the attack late in the evening of Sunday the 6th of April. Overnight, General Grant received considerable reinforcements from another Union army under Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell that allowed him to launch an unexpected counterattack the next morning which completely reversed the Confederate gains of the previous day.

One of the main characters of the story is Capt. Michael Grierson: A volunteer with the 5th Texas Artillery. Michael makes several keen observations in the lull that followed the Confederates initial crushing defeat of the Union Army. As he observes the Union prisoners marching past him as he sits astride his horse he observes the situation and sums if up this way:

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Some Thoughts From Leadercast 2015

IMG_0554

I had the great opportunity to attend Leadercast 2015 last week and I wanted to take a few minutes to share what I took away from the event. Besides almost unlimited Chick-fil-A, I got to spend most of the day with a great leader and friend, Kevin Bowser.

I am sure that most of our dedicated readers will not be surprised to find out the majority of my take a ways are from CMDR (RET) Rourke Denver, a former Navy SEAL and true American hero. The two topics I want to discuss today are confidence, and change. Two things that I feel are important to Leadership, and the way CMDR Denver discussed them, really made them stick.

“No One can make you feel inferior, without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

I would like to start with a story CMDR Denver told us about an airplane trip he took shortly after he retired from active duty:

Click here to read the rest of the article »