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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Thanksgiving and Football

And an Interesting Leadership Example

thanksgiving-and-football

My thoughts today run from family to football and back again. I hope that you are having a great day today and that it is filled with family, food, and fellowship.

Thanksgiving has been known for many traditions. Not the least of which, unfortunately, may be that there is football on Thanksgiving. The Dallas Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving Day since 1966 and that my friend is a tradition.

I grew up and became a Steelers fan in my teen years. They were awesome in the 1970s. I tried to be a Patriots fan in the early 80s. I was a Falcons fan during our time in Atlanta. And when we moved to the DC area, I became a Redskins fan. Those Dallas Cowboys weren’t bad either. Even the most ardent Redskin fan would have to admit that. But one of the best thing to be said of the Cowboys for about 29 years in a row was their coach – Tom Landry.

Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do to achieve what they want to achieve. – Tom Landry

There have been some amazing coaches in pro football, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Don Shula, Chuck Knoll, Joe Gibbs, and Tony Dungy are only a few of the great coaches that have walked the chalk on the sidelines on cold Sunday afternoons. But, beyond their ability to motivate and draw up the Xs and Os, consider for a moment one of the key tasks of the football coach as the leader of the team.

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The Leader in the Second Chair

What kind of leader do you aspire to be?

the-leader-in-the-2nd-chair

We are in an ugly political season. In fact, it may be the ugliest one in my lifetime. So, in light of that and from a political perspective, one of the political leaders that I admired the most was Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee.

I have been giving a lot of thought about the topic of “Leading from the Second Chair”. Although I have not yet read Bonem and Patterson’s book by that name, I have seen a lot of that type of leadership in my own life and in the life of some of those who I admire greatly.

His was the very first presidential campaign that I worked on was as a young volunteer. Unfortunately, I was a part of his unsuccessful attempt to become President in 1979. I admired Sen. Baker on multiple levels. Others admired him as well. Known in Washington, D.C. as the “Great Conciliator”, Baker is often regarded as one of the most successful senators in terms of brokering compromises, enacting legislation, and maintaining civility across the aisle. A story is sometimes told of a reporter telling a senior Democratic senator that privately, a plurality of his Democratic colleagues would vote for Baker for President of the United States. Unfortunately, in my opinion, not enough Americans apparently shared that same sentiment.

Some of the times during his career that I admired him the most were his days as White House Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan. Reagan was the opponent who defeated him early in the primary season and caused him to drop out after the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary.

Baker did not seek re-election in 1984. However, as a testament to Baker’s skill as a negotiator and honest and amiable broker, Reagan tapped him to serve as Chief of Staff during part of Reagan’s second term (1987–1988). Many saw this as a move by Reagan to mend relations with the Senate, which had deteriorated somewhat under the previous chief of staff, Donald Regan. It is interesting to note that in accepting this appointment as Chief of Staff, Baker chose to skip another bid for the White House in 1988. He would never run again. Who knows if he would have been successful? I, for one, would have loved to have seen him elected in 1988 over the alternative that year.

The Leadership Principle

So what is the leadership principle that I admired in Sen. Baker? Well, I think it is embodied in these two principles.

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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.

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Lincoln on Leadership

The original "Great Communicator?"

Lincoln on Leadership

We are in the midst of a heated and contentious political season. During this time every four years there seems to be renewed interest in great former presidents such as Abraham Lincoln. So, what is the deal with Lincoln? Was he really the greatest president of all me?

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 that he also cultivated in those around him. Phillips points out many unique qualities of Lincoln. He also focuses on what he calls The Lincoln Principles. He goes on to develop Lincoln’s Principles of People, Principles of Character, Principles of Endeavor, and Principles of Communication. I don’t have me to develop each of these. But, I recommend the book if you are interested in pursuing this line of thought on a political figure that has become a pop culture figure again of late.

More than meets the eye

One characteristic that caught my eye was the fact that Lincoln is the only U.S. president to hold a U.S. Patent. Lincoln received a patent for a method of making a certain kind of boat more buoyant. Not all that remarkable in and of itself. But it demonstrates that Lincoln was creative. He was not just a “community organizer”. He was actually a contributor to the business community and he understood that government is not the solution.

He was not only creative; he was also a great developer of leadership intelligence and information from those around him. Lincoln was keenly aware that people (his cabinet and his military leaders) were the major source of information and that in order for him to be a great leader he had to stay close to them. But being close to them was not enough. He needed the relationship to be real and intimate. He built those relationships by holding meetings that were more informal with these people rather than structured and formal meetings.

What is the leadership principle here?

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Big Ideas

Leadership Lessons from Disney World

Big Ideas

Great leaders have BIG ideas. Not every one of them is necessarily big. But some of them must be.

Consider these words and the idea that they represent.

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”

Those are the words of Walt Disney himself. He made that statement on the What Is Disneyland television program on October 27, 1954. In those words, Walt Disney expressed the incredible power of even a small idea. The idea was a cartoon mouse that would ultimately propel Walt and his brother Roy into the place where they could do, and would do, incredible things.

“He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner. Born of necessity, the little fellow literally freed us of immediate worry. He provided the means for expanding our organization to its present dimensions and for extending the medium of cartoon animation toward new entertainment levels.”

Walt Disney wrote an essay in 1948 essay entitled, What Mickey Means to Me. In that essay, he recounts the “lowest ebb” and the “disaster” and describes it as an intellectual property theft of two things. One was the theft of his earlier and successful cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. And the other was most of the Disney artists that worked with him early in his career.

But focus on the idea that popped out of his mind.

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Behind Every Great Man

No One Does It Alone

Behind Every Great Man

One of the greatest leaders of all of history is Moses of Biblical fame. Moses is considered a great leader because of the mighty deliverance of God’s people from the bondage and slavery of Egypt.

It is not my normal habit to use too many Biblical illustrations in my writing. But today is Mother’s Day and today I am reminded of Moses and of his mother. Do you recall her name? Don’t go look it up. Try to remember it. Do you give up? The mother of Moses was Jochebed.

The name “Jochebed” translates or implies, “glory of Jehovah” or, “Jehovah (is her or our) glory.” Therefore, you could make the case, based upon this name of the mother of Moses, that the announcement of Jehovah, as the name of God, was not made for the first time when God revealed Himself under that title to Moses in the burning bush. Rather, Jochebed’s name revealed what God himself would later reveal to Moses out in the desert.

What is the leadership lesson on this Mother’s Day?

It is this.

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