Posts Tagged ‘quote’

Are you Communicating your Leadership?

April 12, 2011 12 comments

Leadership CommunicationGeneral Robert E. Lee was one of the most skilled and beloved leaders America has ever produced. He was Abraham Lincoln’s first choice to lead the Union Army before Lee’s home state of Virginia seceded from the Union. During the Civil War he consistently led the Confederate Army to victory against Union forces, despite the North’s superior numbers and resources. The love his soldiers had for him was the stuff of legend.

Lee was a great leader.

However, on July 1st, 1863, as the lead elements of his army encountered and engaged the vanguard of the Union Army near a small town called Gettysburg, a lack of clear communication neutralized his tactical genius. And the results were disastrous.

As Lee approached the ensuing battle, he immediately recognized the key terrain beyond the town: high ground that commanded the surrounding landscape. A soldier’s soldier, Lee instinctively knew he had to deny this ground to his enemy. So he sent a message to his lead commander, General Ewell, to “take that hill, if practicable.”

At the end of the day, General Ewell did not think securing the heights was “practicable.” Though he drove the Union forces out of the town, he left them the high ground and they leveraged it over the next two days to defeat the Confederates.

Lee had immediately discerned what needed to happen, but failed to communicate the importance of why it must be done. That failure may have cost him the battle, and in the end, the war.

Contrast that with Colonel Strong Vincent, a Union soldier whose brigade occupied the extreme left flank of the Federal line on the second day of the battle. He left no room for doubt when he issued orders to his subordinate regimental commander, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. He made sure Chamberlain knew that his unit was the end of the Union line. If he failed, the Confederates would take the whole Army from behind. Vincent ordered him to “hold that ground at all hazards.”

Chamberlain and his 20th Maine held their ground in a stunning battle I wrote about here.

Knowing what to do is not enough. To be effective, you must be able to communicate your leadership clearly and passionately.

How have you seen communication help or hinder leaders?

The Missing Ingredient

March 29, 2011 13 comments

Leadership Development

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

– Confucius

What’s the most important aspect of a successful leadership development program?

Education? Training? Reading? Case Studies? Role Models? Experience? Experimentation? Exercises? Games? Challenges? Mentorship? Feedback?

These are all important components of leader development, but I’d like to highlight an aspect I feel is often overlooked and undervalued: Reflection. I think it’s left out because course designers either fail to understand its power or don’t know how to encourage it—or both.

1. First, its power. Reflection is the catalyst that jump starts self-directed, personalized (i.e. meaningful) leadership development. High-potential leaders could get a lot out of each component I mentioned above—but it’s not guaranteed they will. Adding reflection into the mix increases your chances of participants experiencing the “aha” moment you’re hoping for.

Helping high potentials reflect on what they’re going through can mean the difference between life-changing realizations and just “going through the motions”.

2. Sounds good, but how do you induce reflection? It’s not as easy as creating a reading list, teaching a class, or facilitating an exercise. You can’t force someone to reflect in a meaningful way. You can, however, set the conditions for meaningful reflection to occur. Here are a few ideas:

  • Journal. Encourage this by 1. giving them a journal, 2. setting aside time for them to journal, & 3. giving them a venue to share what they’re learning
  • Model. Ask authentic questions and expect the same from participants
  • Discuss. Build in group discussion time after leadership development events
  • Serve. Incorporate volunteer work into your program; it helps you contemplate purpose beyond personal profit
  • Present. Have participants brief the group (or their team) on what they’re learning
  • Share. Urge participants to blog or use twitter to share what they’re learning
  • Commit. Schedule time for reflection—then guard it with your life!

Whether you’re in charge of developing other leaders or just in charge of developing yourself, this truth still stands: Education and experience are important, but if you aren’t injecting your program with adequate doses of reflection it will never become self-sustaining, let alone create explosive results.

Is reflection really that important? How do you incorporate it into your development?

Driven or Drawn?

March 4, 2011 3 comments


There are two levers for moving men: interest and fear.

– Napoleon Bonaparte

I strongly believe that one of the best ways to learn about people—and how to influence them—is to observe the person you are closest to: You.

How are you motivated? Note that what motivates you is less important than how you’re motivated. What motivates you is, after all, unique to you. But how your motives move you—or fail to move you—is generally common to us all.

Take positive and negative motivation, for example:

Are you driven…

  • Is something forcing you forward?
  • Do you feel chased toward your goal?
  • Is a certain fear licking at your heels?
  • Is anxiety compelling you to act?

…or drawn?

  • Is something pulling you forward?
  • Do you feel a happy tug toward your goal?
  • Are you captivated by some passion?
  • Is hope inspiring you to act?

The answer is probably both. But in this case, the answer isn’t as important as the question. Or the necessary follow up: How are you leading others—are you driving them or drawing them?

What are the pros and cons of driving/drawing people? When is each appropriate?

Radiating Leadership

February 14, 2011 1 comment

Leading Lighthouse

Leadership is the ability to get people to do what they don’t want to do and like it.

– Harry Truman

People traditionally think of leadership as an authority figure telling everyone under them what to do. I believe it’s much larger than that. John Maxwell was the first person I heard define leadership as merely influence. I heard Mark Sanborn say it’s positive influence. I like Truman’s definition above.

Whichever you prefer, notice that most definitions don’t specify a direction. Meaning leadership doesn’t only flow downhill. You can influence in any direction—you can lead in any direction. Here are four questions to see if you’re radiating leadership in all directions:

  • Are you leading those below you? This is the most obvious direction, but some people still aren’t stepping up to the line. Just because you have an official title or command the respect of a group doesn’t mean you’re truly leading them to the best of your ability. Are you being intentional? Select a destination, assess the situation, get to know your people, and start moving them forward.
  • Are you leading those around you? Two things generally stop us from leading our peers. First, unhealthy competition inhibits us from helping others. Let it go. Trust me, helping others is the best way to help yourself. Second, an unhealthy self-image prevents us from thinking we have anything worthwhile to share. Get over it; by holding back you’re cheating those around you.
  • Are you leading those above you? Complaining about your boss is easy—and ubiquitous. However, how many people take responsibility for and choose to lead their boss? While most are grumbling and whining, leaders are leading. It takes finesse for sure, but you can absolutely influence your boss. Next time you get frustrated, think about what motivates, inspires, or influences your boss—then leverage it to get things done.
  • Are you leading yourself? This is the first direction you should lead. Leading yourself affects every other direction you try to lead in. So be intentional about disciplining, motivating, and taking care of yourself.

What percentage of your time do you devote to leading in each of these directions?

How to Achieve a Strategic Viewpoint

February 10, 2011 8 comments

Leadership Thinking

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years. – Mark Twain

One of the most powerful realizations for anyone—especially a leader—is the day you discover that your view of reality isn’t necessarily (isn’t even usually) the same as reality itself. We all have a point of view; meaning, we have a finite vantage point from which we see people, issues, and situations. Reality exists, but we rarely see it in its objective form.

Regardless, leaders still need to make decisions according to their best guess of reality. One of the best ways to improve your guess is to collect different points of view into a unified, strategic perspective. Here are seven tips to keep in mind as you gather other opinions and viewpoints:

1. Quantity helps. The more perspectives you get, odds are, the better picture you’ll get.

2. Diversity helps even more. The more varied perspectives, the fuller the composite view. Talk to everyone from the janitor to the CEO. Don’t dismiss people because of position (higher or lower).

3. Really listen. Don’t just go through the motions. Appreciating someone’s point of view is more important than agreeing with it.

4. Put Yourself in their shoes. Use your imagination. Try to truly look out from where they are.

5. No one has the whole truth. No one sees all the dimensions of reality; we all have a limited piece of the puzzle. Don’t take any person’s opinion as the gospel.

6. Hold your tongue. Don’t offer your opinion right away. If you’re the leader, you might unintentionally shut down other people.

7. Don’t overlook your own view. You have a valid point of view yourself, don’t lose it among all the others. Your perspective might just be the missing piece to the puzzle.

How do you ensure others’ perspectives help and don’t hinder your vision?

Lead Yourself First

September 16, 2010 7 comments

Airplane Emergency CardShould the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the overhead compartment. Please place the mask over your nose and mouth before assisting children…or adults acting like children. – my JetBlue flight attendant

An airliner cruising at 30,000 ft experiences a rapid loss of pressurization. The air in the cabin thins from 15 PSI to less than 4 PSI in a matter of seconds. The overheads burst open and down come those famous yellow masks. People panic. The man in row 19, the one with the two kids, decides to help them first. While every other adult on the plane is scrambling to save themselves, he’s made the noble decision to save these children first.

The masks are a bit tangled, so it takes a little work to get them separated. Then the first child isn’t sitting calmly like the picture in the emergency card. And the strap isn’t even tight enough to stay on the child’s face. His fingers, which are turning blue-gray, start fumbling over the straps, and before he’s done with the task he becomes confused, disoriented and strangely euphoric. Oxygen-starved cells in his brain are ceasing to work properly. Hypoxia has set in. He’s useless.

Of course the drama ends when the flight attendant sees the situation and secures a mask over everyone’s face in row 19. She’s quick and the life-giving air brings everyone back to normal consciousness with no permanent damage done. Before you start to judge the man who “tried to be a hero”, consider these questions:

How do this man’s actions relate to how you lead?

What do you do to ensure you’re fit to lead/serve others?

What do you struggle the most with in this area?

I See You

July 27, 2010 11 comments

Leader's VisionSawubona!

This is how the Zulu greet one another. It literally means, “I see you.” And, yes, they were saying it long before the Na’vi of James Cameron’s Avatar were saying it. Last week I offered 3 ways to connect with others. Number two was “Seeing People.” I’d like to dig into that a little deeper with the help of our African friends.

Sawubona isn’t just about seeing you physically; it’s about giving the gift of acknowledgment and recognition to your very existence. The response to Sawubona is Ngikhona, which means, “I am here.” The concept behind these simple words is that before you saw me, I didn’t exist – by seeing me, you bring me into being. It stems from the African worldview of Ubuntu (literally: I am because you are) which maintains that individuals need other people to ultimately be fulfilled.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu described Unbuntu as the essence of being human. He goes on to say that a person with Ubuntu is “open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

We cannot lead what we cannot see. How many people do we interact with – or just plain walk by – everyday that we don’t take time to really see? Are we in some small way denying their  existence when we rush by them? I don’t know; but I do know how powerful it is when someone deliberately pays attention to me. So be generous with your time and attention today. As the Zulu say, Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – a person is a person because of people.

Who are you going to take the time to really see today?

photo credit Dr Cullen