Monday, November 18, 2013

Purpose-Driven Leadership

I have been meeting with a friend over the last several weeks to discuss leadership. What started as an opportunity to catch up has evolved to a deep dive into leadership. We have been exploring the role of servant leadership in a corporate environment and this has me thinking about purpose… why do we do what we do?

Leadership is influence. As leaders, if we are not willing to assume an influential role, then we have no business being in the leadership position to begin with. Influence simply suggests that we have some effect on others. This change can either be positive or not; it can be accomplished intentionally or by chance. If our leadership is going to have a bearing on those around us, don’t we have the responsibility to ensure that the affect we create is constructive?

This is the heart of servant leadership. Too often we think of this as always stepping up and doing… but it’s more about being than doing. It starts first with knowing ourselves and evolves to a point where our purpose, the reason we do what we do, is always for the betterment of those around us. Let’s explore this in my three principles of servant leadership.

Understanding Others
Before we can begin to understand others, we first must slow down and listen. Listen to what others are saying, listen to what other are asking, and most importantly, listen to the needs of those we serve. Effective leadership is developing a keen sense of awareness of the needs of others and then acting on those needs to advance both the individual and the organization. In deference to Albert Einstein, “Any fool can know others; the point is to understand others.” With this understanding evolves a level of empathy that allows leaders to share in the experiences and emotions of others.

Nurturing Others
Once understanding begins to take shape and our conceptualization of others becomes more defined, our role as leaders shifts to one of encouragement and support. Tom Peters said it best, “Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” It is not enough simply to tell others they are valued and doing a good job, leaders must demonstrate this through engagement. Our presence indicates commitment and value, both of the task at hand and of the individual performing the task. Our involvement cultivates a deeper relationship that provides a foundation for leadership development... both in others as well as in us.

Growing Others
As a leader, I have always found it satisfying when someone I have mentored or supported receives an opportunity to advance in their career. The leadership role is one of stewardship – the careful responsibility of resources - whereby the greatest resource is that of the human kind. Like the parable of the talents in the New Testament, we are to grow the talents of those entrusted to our leadership. Warren Bennis states it this way, “Growing other leaders from the ranks isn’t just the duty of the leader, it’s an obligation.” Our obligation to others is to give them our best and to, in turn, expect the best from them. We do this not by burying the talents we collectively have, but by intentionally developing these talents together in a partnership of possibility and potential.

While some may argue that servant leadership can be considered a redundant term, the label serves as a reminder to us of the importance of these concepts in the leadership relationships we enjoy. These principles are progressive and build on one another as we evolve our servant leadership roles. It is the ultimate purpose of leadership to serve others. But, Friedrich Nietzsche warns, “To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.” What is your purpose? Why do you do what you do?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Leadership Tendencies

I have written several blogs over the last few months exploring fresh new ideas in leadership. My intention has not been to abandon what we know to be effective as leaders, but to update our language and thinking about leadership. I continue this dialogue in this post with five new leadership tendencies that I find emerging in the conversation.

When I think of a tendency, I think of a preference for a particular way that one behaves. This is true in how we respond, almost by instinct, to the environment around us. It is also the core behaviors associated with leadership… those actions that are almost instinctual and driven more by style than by thought. What follows is a look into some of the leadership tendencies that appear to be most relevant.

We become a part of something by agreeing to the terms of membership. This is no different when we become leaders. By accepting our place in the academy of leadership, we accept certain responsibilities. First, we accept the idea that we are not in it alone. Collaboration with others is not only important but imperative. Second, we understand that we no longer have the luxury of thinking only for ourselves. Instead, we have a higher purpose, a greater role to those with whom we share membership. Finally, we feel compelled to ensure that we seek opportunities for worthwhile work, not only for ourselves but for others as well.

Loyalty in the vernacular of leadership is best described as devotion. Not only in the way we are attached to the organization through our work, but in the way we commit ourselves to others in the organization. Such commitment manifests in dependability and enthusiasm. As Samuel Goldwyn once stated, “I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.” As leaders, this loyalty serves a model for others to follow.

As leaders, it is an obligation we have to serve in a mentoring capacity. Leadership is about development, both our own as well as our influence on others. We cannot be content in simply serving in a leadership capacity we must be willing to share our wisdom and know-how in support of the professional growth and development of an emerging leader. “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” stated Benjamin Franklin. Mentoring is about engagement.

There is nothing new about the idea of servant leadership… it is a well-explored topic. However, from my perspective it is not a typical behavior of leaders. In fact, we too often focus on ourselves, even when we don’t necessarily mean to do so. John Maxwell has stated that “True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not to enrich the leader.” Measures of our servant nature can be found in how well we cultivate trust and encourage others in their leadership journey.

Learning is a skill that never goes out of style. It implies goal-directed behavior whereby one expands existing knowledge, behaviors, or values to deepen understanding and awareness. How can one claim to be a leader if he or she is not actively seeking to grow and develop themselves in a learning environment? Albert Einstein stated it best, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” When we become a leader in whatever form that takes, it is not a ticket to sit back and relax. Just the opposite; it is the time for deeper understanding.

Our tendencies as leaders should drive us to seek ways to be more responsible, devoted, engaged, encouraging, and understanding. It is a matter of plugging in to ourselves and those around us. If we avoid these tendencies, we are being untrue to ourselves as leaders and unfair to those we lead. I would love to hear how you are letting your leadership tendencies thrive.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Mark of Leadership

According to Wikipedia, branding can be the permanent marking of wood with heat, the marking of animals to imply ownership, or the application of specific marketing techniques to separate one product from another. In short, you can brand objects, animals, and other things, but can you brand your leadership?

Much has been written on the idea of leadership branding with a focus on the leader’s role within an organization. Leadership branding, like branding in general, includes concepts such as identity, distinctiveness and reputation. However, most of what I have read explores these characteristics in terms of the uniqueness of the team and not so much about the individuality of the leader.

Leadership is idiosyncratic and effective leadership exists outside the artificial confines of the typical organizational leadership paradigm. In other words, one size does not fit all despite the organizational pull to conform to the skills of the most dominate leaders or those in top positions. I think of leadership branding in terms of one’s personal leadership vision… how do I utilize my inimitable mix of personality, performance, and process to be the best leader I can be?

Our personality is how we present ourselves to the world. As leaders, our success is often measured on various personality traits, some of which have no bearing on our leadership ability. How well we perceive our leadership abilities is a personality trait that directly correlates with how well others perceive us as leaders. Our challenge is to be confident, not arrogant in our abilities while always seeking to improve ourselves as leaders. According to Peter Drucker, “Leadership is lifting our vision to higher sights, the raising of our performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

What would it take to make you a better leader? This is the primary question behind the concept of performance. Our performance as leaders can be summed up in the development of the organization, of others, and of our own knowledge. Great leadership is a magnet for excellent performance – both individual and organizational performance. However, leadership performance has to be measured on concepts individual to the leader and not on some commonly defined set of traits or measures. Consider the words of Mark Sanborn, “Our brand is a promise for the future based on our past performance.”  Leadership is personal therefore our performance is personal.

Leadership is an accomplishment… not a position we hold in an organization. Successful leadership often requires some level of self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-sacrifice. We must be thoughtful in recognizing ourselves as individuals separate from the organizational environment so as to fully realize our leadership capacity. This requires self-control while maintaining the ability to adapt quickly in an ever-changing environment. Leadership is often a call to service whereby we surrender personal interest or gain for the betterment of those around us. Yvon Chouinard states it this way, “How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.” This is the process we refer to as leadership.

Within our organizations, common sets of leadership skills are scalable. We can teach others to manage their time, communicate, and engage with their teams. It’s the excellence in the execution of these skills that doesn’t scale so well. The tactics used by one leader to achieve leadership results may not work for other leaders. When we try to force conformity, we sacrifice authenticity… and authenticity is the most precious commodity of leadership.

Like the marking of wood with heat, your leadership should leave an indelible mark on those around you. What is your leadership brand?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Mentoring Effect

Have you ever had a mentor? Someone you could turn to when you had questions, when you needed advice, or just simply to bounce ideas off of? In short, someone you could rely on to tell you the truth. I have had the pleasure of both having great mentors as well as serving as a mentor for others. I highly recommend both.

As leaders, it is an obligation we have to serve in a mentoring capacity. Leadership is about development, both our own as well as our influence on others. We cannot be content in simply serving in a leadership capacity, we must be willing to put ourselves out there in service to others; we must be willing to take on the responsibility of leadership mentoring.

Below are seven tips for effective leadership mentoring:

Maintain regular contact: It is easy in the busy hustle of life to forget that we have someone relying on us. Mentors should assume they are the givers in this relationship. Consistent contact models dependability and builds trust.

Always be honest: To truly be effective and to be a part of your protégé’s leadership development, you must tell them the truth. Trust and respect are the foundations on which leadership development occurs.

Don’t expect to have all the answers: Despite your level of self-confidence, you are not the perfect leader. Sometimes, you won’t have the answer or know just what to do. That’s okay, sometimes just listening is all people need.

Be willing to share: You are in this relationship to share your knowledge, skills, expertise, and even personal contacts to help your protégé develop new leadership skills and grow as a leader. Don’t be selfish in sharing your successes.

Be clear about expectations: Most effective mentoring relationships start with a clear understanding of the expectations. This can include how often you will meet, the goals of the relationship, and other important details to ensure the relationship is effective and enjoyable for both parties.

Respect confidentiality: Good friends do… and good mentors do as well. Again, trust is the foundation of leadership and you will do more harm than good if you violate this confidence.

Have fun: Leadership is fun and our participating in the development of other leaders should be fun as well. While the professional nature of leadership mentoring is important, find ways to make it personal and fun as well.

A mentor is someone who has knowledge and experience that can be beneficial to the growth and development of others. The mentoring effect occurs when we share our wisdom and know-how in support of the professional growth and development of an emerging leader. In the words of Oliver Goldsmith, "People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy."

For whom are you modeling great leadership? I would love to hear about your mentoring relationships.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Leadership Shift

I’m not sure what made me think about an article I read more than 10 years ago… but here I was Googling to find the story about the attributes necessary to achieve a leadership turnaround.  The story about Continental Airlines appeared in the December 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine. While the original ideas are not my own, I am expanding the concept in terms of how we need to experience a shift in our leadership.

Shift is generally understood to mean change. So, when we think about the need for leadership shift… we are simply thinking about change. Or, are we? Maybe shift refers to the idea of replacement; substituting old ways of thinking about leadership with new ideas. Likewise, shift could be directional suggesting that the leader reconsider long-held beliefs and positions. Regardless of our definition, the concept eventually directs change in the leader.And change is a commodity that leaders often trade in.

Relying on the ideas in the original article as the foundation, our personal leadership shift can be accomplished through specific attributes. While none of the attributes are new to leadership, the idea that we change as a result of implementing these deserves special attention.  Below are the seven attributes, each presented with an opening quote from Bonnie Reitz, then senior vice president at Continental.

Listening. “Listening is the key to knowing if what we are doing is right.”Too often we hear others without really listening. We recognize a noise coming from the vicinity of the other person, but our mind is racing to what we are going to say. Effective leadership requires us to slow down our thinking and speed up our listening. Listening is comprehension of what the other person is telling us before formulating a reply. Only through the experience of others can we really understand our leadership.

Focus. “Focus on what will make the biggest impact.” Similar to listening is focus. Paying attention to others and their ideas is critical to leadership. We too often spend energy on issues that are irrelevant or ultimately inconsequential; the squeaky wheel. Instead, by focusing on the important we can shape the future, one vision at a time.  As John Maxwell so eloquently states, “A Leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Action. “If it’s worth doing, do it.”How often do you see leaders paralyzed by analysis; always waiting for more data to make a decision? Sometimes the best data is simply what we know is right. Warren Bennis knew this when he suggested that “Managers do things right and leaders do the right thing.” When deciding on a course of action, our head is important, but our heart should not be ignored. Good leadership is knowing which one to rely on to get things done.

Measurement. “What gets measured gets done.” It’s hard to ignore the irony of this attribute after I write about leading from the heart. But leadership is often a balance between estimation and quantification. Leaders too often infer what others need without investing time in true assessment or understanding. However, if we spend the time accurately appraising the situation, our leadership takes on an increased urgency.

No Surprises. “If something’s not going well, speak up.” I have two guiding principles that have served me well over many years as a leader: own my mistakes and always be truthful. This manifests in certain behaviors, one of which is I try never to surprise my boss or my team. Through proactive communication and honesty, I share what’s going well and what is not. Rowan Williams states is this way, “Bad human communication leaves us less room to grow.” And leaders should always be seeking to grow.

Strength. “Have strength of character in good times and in bad.”A true test of our leadership is how we react when things are not going our way. Our resilience to persevere through challenge is what separates leaders from others. Sometimes our limitations are just strengths waiting to happen.But strength implies more than just a resolute nature; it suggests a level of self-discipline and poise that guides decision making. It is living a life of leadership without pretense.

Integrity. “Do the best you can do.”Up to this point, I have agreed with Ms. Reitz. But simply doing our best seems to leave room for more. It implies reaching a point where we can stop trying. Leaders are called to be better than that; to never stop seeking improvement in ourselves and others. While we often think of this in terms of our principles, I see integrity more as a state of our being.  As leaders we should strive for some perfect condition or unbreachable nature, like that of a ship’s hull.

While there can be as many attributes of leadership as there are leaders, I found these seven to be particularly interesting in terms of change. Like many leaders, I think change is inevitable and our success at it is dependent on our reaction to it. By being open to a shift in our leadership, we can evolve with the change instead of being consumed by it.

How is your leadership shifting?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Time for a New Approach to Leadership - Part II

Andy Warhol once said, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” This is especially true in leadership. We cannot afford to wait for times to change and instead have to be the change we want and expect. Leadership is personal and therefore any change we seek must first start with us.

In a recent post, I proposed five fresh ways to think about leadership development. This new dialogue is intended to explore how we think about leadership and the language we use to describe leadership. Again, my attempt is not to abandon what we know to be excellent leadership traits, instead I seek a continuing conversation, an exploration into what leadership can and should be in our current environment. What follows is the continuation of this dialogue.

Passion. Leadership often fosters in us an intense emotion or enthusiasm for the work we do. This is revealed in the passion we have for people, for living and for doing what is right.  Manifest in this passion is empathy and positive thinking; an ability to accomplish the task set before us. Nelson Mandela, someone who understands what is required of passionate leaders,
Stated, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” There is no substitute for the passion we have for leadership.

Talent. People will follow leaders they believe have the talent to lead them. The talent you posses and the respect others have for it can be a powerful leadership tool. But as John Wooden warned, “Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” As we increase our knowledge base, we too can increase our talent. Experience, opportunity, and a little hard work can create a talented leader… but we must be careful to always remember the leadership is about others, not ourselves.

Heart. Leadership is about fostering relationships and developing others. Heart is what allows us to give great meaning to this work. Heart is leading through emotional intelligence and helps to define who we are as leaders. As Christina Baldwin states, “To work in the world lovingly means that we are defining what we will be for, rather than reacting to what we are against.” Our actions are dictated by the beliefs of our head and our heart. But heart is a necessary leadership skill that is central to everything we do as leaders.

Tempo. In music, tempo is measured in beats per minute. Too often leadership is a label bestowed on those who get things done quickly and efficiently. But a more contemporary concept is the idea of quality outcomes. Our beats per minute are now measured in the energetic quality of our work instead of the speed with which we get it done. Manolo Blahnik offers some unintended advice, “People walk differently in high heels. Your body sways to a different kind of tempo.” For leaders, this means being dynamic and agile while focusing on quality.

Legacy Thinking. Vision has always been an important leadership skill and one that most experts would agree is critical to leadership success. By nature, vision is always thinking about some future state. Legacy thinking moves us beyond vision to considering how our actions impact this future state. Henry R. Luce, founder of the Time-Life Magazine empire, once said that leadership “is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight.” The legacy we will leave as a leader begins with our actions today.

Our new look at old leadership is now updated with five additional contemporary ideas. While leadership is certainly more complex than the simple labels applied here, the idea that these skills are observable, and therefore may be modeled by others, is important. There are many more to share over the next several months as this dialogue continues.

I would love to hear how you are thinking about leadership differently.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

There is no Band Aid for Bad Leadership

As a child, I was always very active. I remember my family moved into a new neighborhood when I was about ten years of age. A few days in this new place, I saw some other kids riding their bikes and I wanted desperately to make friends so I jumped on my bike and took off down the street. In my haste I didn’t put on shoes and about the time I caught up with the others, I stubbed my toe.

This was no ordinary stubbing… I was on the verge of death. But what could I do? I couldn’t cry in front of others. So in the spirit of every brave boy, I acted like I meant to do it and rode back home. But I couldn’t keep the tears back as I stumbled into the house crying for my mother. And what did my mother do… she put a Band Aid on my toe and gave me a big hug.

Don’t you wish it was that easy to fix bad leadership?

But, what is bad leadership? Is it unethical or immoral? Is it incompetence or chaos? Or is it something else entirely? We may have a hard time defining bad leadership, but we certainly know it when we experience it. Some could argue that if you are not a competent leader then you are not a leader at all. But this seems too simple. Certainly there are leaders who do some things well but are not as capable as they could be. Maybe the line in the sand is ethics. Clearly someone who is unethical is not a leader… right? But, leadership, while generally considered a set of positive traits, certainly has a dark side. When considering examples of “bad” leaders, we invariably mention evil leaders like Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or that manager we once had who wouldn’t let us take a cigarette break. But, too often these leaders were in fact good at the act of leadership. After all, leadership is influence it just happens that not all influence is benevolent.

But my purpose here is not to debate good and bad leaders and leadership. Instead, my intent is to convey that effective leadership is not something that is easy to accomplish or achieve. And in those times when we do fail to be effective leaders, there is often no easy fix. Consequently it is better to avoid bad leadership in the first place. Below are a few thoughts on being an effective leader so you can avert the need for a Band Aid.

Adapt Quickly
Leadership is about flexibility and a willingness to change. If we stick to long to one way of doing things, we not only become stale, we become ineffective. With apologies to Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the leaders that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Act Decisively
“Make a decision and stick to it.” This was some of the best advice I ever received as a novice leader. My mentor was not suggesting I avoid the input of others or to make decisions in isolation. By all means seek the counsel and contributions of others, but when it comes time to make a decision… do it!

Connect Seamlessly
Consider those around you… what aspirations, passions, and goals do you share? As social beings, connecting with others may be the single most important thing we do for our happiness and our success. Althea Gibson was correct when she stated "No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you."

Communicate Relentlessly
Communication is like cheese in a casserole, when you think you have enough, add more. James Hume tells us that “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” Shared information and transparency in your leadership style leads to open communication.

Reward Generously
Hard work and outstanding performance should be rewarded handsomely. This may be money, it may be time, or it may be something else like responsibility, empowerment, or trust. The reward matters less than the act of giving it. Winston Churchill said it best, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

How do you maintain your effectiveness as a leader?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Second International Leadership Blogathon Preview


On March 1st, I am pleased to be a part of a large conglomerate of leadership experts, coaches, speakers, authors, and leaders will come together for the 2nd Annual International Leadership Blogathon on For 31 days we will read amazing stories, unparalleled experiences, and leadership wisdom oozing from every crevice of the Internet. There are a total of 41 writers for the blogathon, gathered from countries the world over. Last year's blogathon brought an amazing source of wisdom, much of which would be hard to come by collectively on any single blog or book. This year's articles raise the bar so much higher. Below are the 41 writers for the blogathon. I invite you to read more about them and make sure to sign-up for updates to receive the articles in your inbox every day. Plus there will be some prizes and contests, here and there, throughout the month to win books and some other leadership products.




March 1st Lolly Daskal USA
March 2nd Kate Nasser USA
March 2nd Susan Bagyura USA
March 3rd Dan Forbes USA
March 3rd Chris Lema USA
March 4th Brendan Howe Canada
March 5th Dave Bradley UK
March 6th Scott Span USA
March 7th Joan De Winne Belgium
March 8th Kai Roer Norway
March 9th Ali Paskun USA
March 9th Susan Thorn USA
March 10th Susan Mazza USA
March 10th Andy Phillips Colombia
March 11th Heidi Alexandra Pollard Australia
March 12th Lora Crestan Canada
March 13th Ogwo David Emenike Nigeria
March 14th Steve Nichols UK
March 15th John Thurlbeck UK
March 16th T. Hampton Hopkins USA
March 16th Barry Smith USA
March 17th Coleen Jolly USA/UK
March 17th Ray Attiyah USA
March 18th Janine Garner Australia
March 19th Alli Polin Austrailia
March 20th Frode Heimen Norway
March 21st Kimunya Mugo Kenya
March 22nd Maria Gardner UK
March 23rd Tanvi Bhatt India
March 23rd Rob Ryan USA
March 24th Chris Young USA
March 24th Jonathan Creaghan Canada
March 25th Peter Sterlacci Japan
March 26th William Powell Finland
March 27th David Hain UK
March 28th Sandro De Silva Netherlands
March 29th Paul Jolicoeur Canada
March 30th Allison Macintoshwright UK
March 30th Richard Andrews UK
March 31st Tom Shulte USA
March 31st Todd Nielsen USA

I can't wait to take part with all of these great minds, as well as the thousands of readers to create a fantastic leadership event that helps enhance the world of leadership acumen.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Eleven Ways to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done

According to some reports, more than 20 percent of us chronically look for distractions to avoid doing the work in front of us. I don’t know about you, but that seems chronically low. I work with many people who have taken procrastination to an art form - putting off doing something, anything until a future time. However, putting off certain things can make you a better time manager! By focusing energy and effort on the tasks of most importance, you can procrastinate and still get things done.

As Vincent T. Foss suggested, “One of the greatest labor-saving inventions of today is tomorrow.” So, in the spirit of Mr. Foss, below are 11 ways to procrastinate effectively:

Remove the urgency from trivia: Commit to a deadline. Deadlines create a sense of urgency. Setting a deadline and sticking to it allows you to focus attention on matters of higher importance first allowing more trivial things to wait.

Do one thing at a time: Take complicated tasks requiring attention one at a time and see them through to completion. Many of us float from one task to another, never bringing anything to completion. Ultimately, the unresolved tasks take their toll creating in us an urgent frenzy.

Occupy the mind: When bogged down, take a break and rejuvenate. Even though it’s important to stick to a task once it’s started, if you reach a point of diminishing returns, take a break (don’t abandon it) and focus on some other task.

There’s always tomorrow: A prioritized daily action list is great for managing time and for procrastinating efficiently. Those tasks not completed today can be carried over to the next day’s list and reprioritized.

Use empty spaces of time: Every one of us has spare time. Properly used, this time can be of considerable value to a creative procrastinator. Always have a constructive task that needs completing with you for these spare moments – a chapter that needs to be read or a paper that needs to be written. Sometimes, however, the spare times are good for just relaxing.

Front and center: As you are wrapping up work for the day, place your next highest priority task in the middle of your desk for tomorrow. This assumes you have a dedicated work space for work – which is also critical to time management!

Select the best time of day: What is your best time of day? If you are a morning person, put off your critical tasks until that time of day. You will be more refreshed and eager to accomplish all that needs to be done.

Adapt to the day: It is a good idea to block out time to accomplish your high priority tasks. But blocking out full days and planning precisely what you will do during those times is often pointless. Be prepared to handle unexpected interruptions.

Be persistent: Stick with each task through to completion. Following the old adage that “behavior persists when it is rewarded,” make yourself stick to the task with the promise that upon completion, you will spend time on something is fun.

Dislike it? Do it!: Simply put, get the hard tasks and those you like least out of the way first.

Post-it: Instead of a list, consider post-it notes. Try using a these handy notes to capture important tasks and priorities. It feels great to throw them away when the task is done.

The next time you feel the urge to procrastinate… do it. And let me know how it works out for you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Building a Leadership Attitude

Attitude. Webster defines it as “a mental feeling…,” others suggest it is our manner, disposition, or thoughts about something. I suggest that there is no more important word for those of us who think of ourselves as leaders.

Have you ever known someone who is almost always happy and confident? Someone who sees the glass as half full? We all have. How about the opposite kind of person – someone who is angry and cynical? Which of these people would you rather have on your team? Which one would you rather be?

The answer is obvious… below are five thoughts about becoming more confident and positive by building a leadership attitude.

Make yourself a priority

We live in a busy world. We all have family, friends, work, and other commitments that keep us active on a daily basis. Perhaps time is a luxury you feel you just can’t afford. But if you want to build a leadership attitude, you must find time for yourself.

Did you know that the average person spends 26 years sleeping, 12 years in meetings, nine years watching TV, seven years driving, six years eating, five years waiting in lines, four years doing housework, and two years returning phone calls? With an average life expectancy of 78 years, you have only seven years to do things solely for you… you better get busy.

For the next 30 days set aside time during the day to focus on you and your leadership attitude. Spend time in the morning strengthening and preparing yourself for the day by listing what you want to accomplish, catching up on your reading list, or simply spending time in thought about your upcoming day. Use time in the middle of the day to reaffirm your priorities and to make sure you are on track for the day. Finally, spend time in the evening reviewing the positive events of the day and reflecting on what you could do differently. The key is to make yourself a priority.

Set realistic goals

I’m sure you will agree that those of us who have identified goals are often more successful than those who have not. This reminds me of a survey that was conducted of graduates of Yale University in the 1950s. One of the questions asked “Do you have written goals?” It is said that only three percent of the class responded in the affirmative. A follow-up survey of these same graduates twenty years later revealed that those with written goals had incomes greater than the other 97 percent of the class combined.

Setting goals is not a new idea for leaders. But doing so in a realistic manner is what’s important. This requires that you know what you want to accomplish, when you want to accomplish it, and how you will measure your success. It take more than simply stating the goals, you must refer to them regularly to ensure that you are working towards successful completion. Remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goals, not it reaching them.”

Pay attention to your health

Well-being and physical health are important aspects of one’s leadership attitude. This encompasses three areas of particular importance: diet, exercise, and nurturing.

As for your diet, what you choose to put in your body is your business. However, the old adage holds true that “You are what you eat.” By eating healthy and avoiding the excesses afforded by this world, you are more likely to have a healthy attitude.

Exercise is good for your leadership attitude. If you have ever been involved in any type of regular exercise program, you know how much physical effort can make you feel better and provide you more energy for doing all that needs to be done in a day. The next time you are feeling angry or cynical, try exercising… exhaust yourself in a good workout. You will be amazed at how that bad attitude is flushed away from your system.

If you are like most people, nurturing is an area that is suffering some neglect. You must nurture yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Take time to slow down enough to savor a sensory experience. For instance, take the time to eat a really great meal slowly – savoring every taste and texture. Maybe leave work early one beautiful afternoon and spend some time walking in the woods to clear your head. Whatever you do, enjoy life and life’s little pleasures.

Know your strengths

Too often we spend time thinking about those areas in our life where we are unsuccessful… where we could use some improvement. We all have weaknesses and sometimes these are abundantly clear. However, we all have strengths as well. What you focus on in your mind is what you give power to. Maybe focus some of that energy on what you do well.

Take a few moments right now to write down your strengths. How many did you come up with? Did you get stuck after listing only a few strengths? Many of us do get stuck after a few because we are trained to be humble. We are more adept at thinking about those areas in which we can improve. It’s time to stop being humble and to begin to be honest with ourselves and focus on our strengths. Try it!

Be positive

There are those of us who believe the world is out to get them. Don’t let yourself fall into this deception. The world is not out to get you. Despite what happens, it is important to see the positive side of the events happening in your life. As the maxim suggests, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

If the lemon in your life is that you just lost your job, the lemonade is that you can now find something you really want to do. It is turning the negative into a positive. Think about something negative that has recently happened… now, think about how this can be a positive event in your life. The positive is there, it just may be hard to see at the moment. Keep trying until you master the idea of seeing the positive side of every event.

One of my favorite films for teaching leadership lessons is Remember the Titans. One particular scene I especially like is when the two stars of the team are talking about attitude and Julius says “attitude reflects leadership.” What I have listed are a few simple attitude adjustments that we can make to better reflect the leaders we want to be. As 2013 gets underway, it’s up to you to build a better leadership attitude. I leave you with the words of Martin Luther King quoting a Georgia preacher, “Them that’s going, get on the wagon. Them that ain’t, get out of the way.”