Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

Courageous Leadership

October 31, 2011 1 comment


People don’t follow titles, they follow courage. – William Wells Brown

How does it make you feel when you see someone demonstrate personal courage?

As for me, I get this odd feeling of respect and usually a strange desire to join them. Ever wonder why that is? I think it comes back to one word:


Let me explain. To have courage, you must first have fear (courage can’t exist without it). So here’s this person, in a fear-inducing situation, only they aren’t letting their fear run the show. Instead of abdicating to fear, they’re trusting their values and abilities to navigate whatever is going on. That intense trust in themselves is what draws us in.

We all have fears. Find someone who generates courage in the face of fear, and we’ll naturally gravitate toward him. Find someone who trusts she can get herself and everyone else through safely to the others side, and we’ll follow her.

Here are three things you can do in the face of fear to encourage yourself and those around you:

1. Stand Up. Take responsibility for your values and your people—not only will you sleep better at night, you’ll attract loyal followers as well.

2. Speak Up. You always have an opinion—whether you realize it or not. Know what yours is—and be ready to share it.

3. Step Up. Words and positioning are a good start, but in the end, action is what communicates your real commitment, and thus, your true courage.

I’m going to choose to be a courageous leader today. I challenge you to do the same.

Where do you need to stand up, speak up, or step up?

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?

Tugboat Leadership

February 8, 2011 4 comments

LeadersAs I ran by the East River the other day, I saw a familiar sight out in the water: A little tugboat guiding an enormous barge through Hell Gate. Hell Gate is a narrow strip of the East River that’s complicated by tricky tidal currents and  rocky obstacles. I’m always amazed at how those tiny tugs maneuver those massive barges down the river. It hit me that the little tugboat, dwarfed by the immensity of its charge, could teach us a lot about leadership.

3 Things leaders could learn from tugboats:

1. Small moves have big impacts. Unless absolutely needed, tugs don’t over-steer their vessels with dramatic movements. A little here and a little there is all it takes. Likewise leaders should be looking ahead, anticipating changes, and responding with strong, small moves to set their organizations on their best course.

2. There’s no autopilot. Many leaders seek to find a comfortable status quo, a place of rest where they can sit back and relax. There is no autopilot for a tugboat—or for a leader. Guiding an organization through ever-changing environments takes constant vigilance. The moment you think you’ve “figured it out” is the when you—and your organization—are most at risk.

3. It’s not about you. Tugs know that they exist to serve a purpose. Their job is to safely move vessels weighing thousands of tons through challenging waterways. Ultimately, as a leader, it’s not about you either. It’s about moving your organization, your employees, your customers, your clients safely through the hazards around them.

Who are the tugboat leaders in your life?

Failing Forward

January 18, 2011 7 comments

Failing LeadershipSomehow, somewhere, I will fail today as a leader.

You need to hear that. I need to hear that. We all fall short of perfection as leaders. One of the things that sets exceptional leaders apart from all the rest is how they manage their failures.

The important question isn’t “will I fail?” The important question is:

How will I respond when I fail?

Will I deny it?
Will I gloss over it or downplay it’s significance?
Will I make excuses, blaming someone or something else?
Will I make hollow promises about “the next time”?
Will I let it crush my self-confidence?
Will I give up or give in?


Will I admit my mistake and accept responsibility?
Will I allow myself to feel sick to my stomach?
Will I apologize to those who deserve it?
Will I correct it and work to prevent a repeat failure?
Will I choose to trust myself and others?
Will I keep leading, keep serving?

The answer to that question – How will I respond when I fail? – truly reveals the kind of leader I am. The place where I’m failing is the place I’m learning, growing, and improving as a leader.

How are you at failing forward as a leader?

5 Places Leaders Can Go For Help

August 18, 2010 7 comments

helping leadersDo you ever feel overwhelmed by life? Like everyone is looking to you for answers, but you’re all out? Like you’ve led everyone this far, but have no idea where to go from here?

As leaders we tend to think we’ve got to have it all together – and when we don’t it can feel very lonely at the top. When I’m in that funk, reaching out for help can mean the difference between spiraling further down or catching my footing and moving forward.

Here are five places to go for help as a leader (listed in descending order of intimacy):

1. Your Mentor. Don’t have one? Get one. Now. Don’t wait. It’s easier than you think. Look around for someone who 1) you admire and 2) cares about you. Approach them and ask if they’d be interested in mentoring you. Most people would be flattered you asked. Mentors are key because they add an outside – and usually higher – perspective to the issues we struggle with.

2. Your Advisers. Your advisers could be anyone from an executive coach or business consultant to your attorney. Advisers are powerful for two reasons: 1) They provide specific advice in narrow fields of expertise. 2) They can provide an objective perspective that no one deeply involved in the situation can see.

3. Your Peers. Talk to your close friends and colleagues – especially if they work in other industries. While they may not understand everything you share, they may have some unique perspectives on the issues you’re dealing with.

4. Your Staff. Look for those who can handle more authority and responsibility, then give it to them. Trust them more and they’ll trust you more. Facing a tough decision? You don’t have to have all the answers! Time permitting, facilitate a brainstorming session with your team to generate possible solutions.

5. Your Contractors. If you know there are better things for you and your staff to be doing, then outsource the work that is bogging you down. In today’s economy I guarantee you can find people who can do it better, faster, and cheaper than you!

Obviously every issue has it’s own level of sensitivity and many issues would be inappropriate to share with some of these groups. Use your judgment. The important thing is that you reach out to someone for help. Don’t be fooled by the myth that great leaders have it all together all the time. If anything, that mindset leads to mediocrity as a leader – not greatness!

Where do you go for help when you’re overwhelmed as a leader?

3 Things Leaders Need to Take

May 25, 2010 6 comments

leadership initiative responsibilityExceptional leaders are defined by their generosity. They give value, attention, counsel, insight, vision, service, guidance, protection, and inspiration to their followers. But there are a few things leaders cannot give away. In fact, there are a few things that they must take. They include:

1. Initiative. No one can give you initiative; you have to take it. There comes a time when you have to make the decision, then get off your rear and make something happen. In that moment–since there will be no path or road to follow–let your purpose and intent guide you. Trust both your education and your experience, your intellect and your intuition, to help you see where and when to go. Develop your sense of timing. Stepping too early can be just as bad as stepping too late. But remember: Inaction is worse than failure. Action is imperative; without it, nothing happens.

2. Responsibility. Leaders take responsibility for other people’s actions, not just their own. Growing up people told me to take responsibility for my actions–but you don’t really take responsibility for your own actions, you are responsible for your own actions. You may not always experience the consequences, but you’re still responsible for what you do. Taking responsibility is something leaders do.  They assume culpability for what other people do. Again, it’s not something someone can give you, you have to take it for yourself.

3. Time. Finally, leaders need to take time. They need to be deliberate about how they invest one of their greatest resources. Leaders need to take time to care for themselves. They need to take time to get to know the people they’re leading. They need to take time to cultivate a vision, shape a culture, create a solution, communicate with others, and set the example. All of this takes time and none of it happens by accident.

Initiative. Responsibility. Time. Surrender any of them and your leadership will suffer. None of them will fall into your lap haphazardly. You must seize them, guard them, and use them to move yourself, your people, and your organization forward.

How do you take initiative, responsibility, and time?

What does it take to be a Leader?

March 24, 2010 1 comment

Leaders LeadingIf your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

– John Quincy Adams

Everyone – every human on this planet – has the capacity to lead. Leadership isn’t exclusive to any group, race, gender or creed. It doesn’t matter how young, old, short, tall, smart or dull you are. You don’t need a title, an education, or even a platform.

What does it take to be a leader? A heart and a mind and a spirit. Of course, a body helps too. You have everything it takes. All that’s left is for you to choose to use what you have to guide and inspire others.

How will you inspire others today?