Five Leadership Tips to Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Five Leadership Tips to Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

We talk about success as if it was a one-time-only event. We celebrate the overnight success of the startup entrepreneur without seeing the years of patient effort, change, modification and even failure that has taken place. In many ways, we have patience for the headlines but not the attention for the story. Think, for example, of Tony Hsieh, the driving force behind online retailer, Zappos. It’s easy to be carried away by the $1 billion price tag Amazon paid for the revolutionary online shoe store. It’s simple to look at the stock valuation and how it grew beyond expectations. But there was a grander vision than simply growing and selling a business – back in 2005, Hsieh rebuffed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos back in 2005: … we told Jeff that we weren’t interested in selling at any price. I felt like we were just getting started. Clearly, Tony Hsieh had a vision. There was an over-the-horizon prize that Hsieh was chasing – but it was one that not everyone could see. And the difference was leadership. I believe that leadership while it can be awe inspiring, also comes with an aura of mystique. Leaders that we know and respect seem to project their presence into our lives in a “super normal” way that is beyond the understanding of many. But true leadership is anything but mysterious – and it boils down to some fundamental elements that anyone – and I do mean anyone – can apply to their professional and personal lives. Inspired by David Cottrell’s book, Tuesday Morning Coaching, these five leadership tips can be used to start...
Be Careful What You Tweet For

Be Careful What You Tweet For

One of the most powerful benefits of social media is that – as a form of media – it brings us closer to our readers. It brings us closer to our customers. In fact, it seems to strip away layers and layers of process, red tape and hierarchy at the click of a mouse. On sites like LinkedIn, I can find, connect to and communicate with business leaders the world over. Here on my blog I can share thoughts and ideas and receive feedback from some of the brightest minds of the business world. And it is a relatively simple process. Deceptively so. For while we have never been more connected, we are also more exposed. With social media we find both success and failure within our grasp. Some time ago, when I wrote about the work-life balance, I was of the opinion that we all live on a continuum – where sometimes our work lives take precedence and at others that our personal lives do. But social media is complicating this spectrum – what we say, do and even believe in one part of our lives can impact other parts. And not just other parts. Other people. Take, for example, the situation where Brooklyn based journalist Caitlin Curran found herself unemployed after participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement. In How Occupy Wall Street Cost Me My Job, Caitlin came face to face with the contradictions and complexities of this new world. With every tweet, blog post, status update, photo, video or podcast, we push ourselves – our individual selves into spaces and situations for which we are...

Thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg and Personal Leadership

As we reach the end of one year and enter into a new one, we all feel the need to recap on what has been and look toward the future – at what will be. Perhaps we are drawn to predictions as a way of helping us make sense of what is otherwise unknowable. But I am a great believer in planning and action. It’s important for us all, as individuals and as leaders, to set forth a vision and follow that through with programs that help us all build towards that vision. At the end of 2010, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, delivered an amazing address to the TEDWomen conference. As she points out: Women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world Women on boards and in C-level positions sits at around 15-16% Women political leaders and heads of state – about 0.5% These numbers have not moved since 2002 and are trending down While not downplaying the role of mentoring, training or other programs designed to encourage the participation of women in business, Sheryl suggests that there is no clear answer (even for herself) – but that an important aspect is to focus on our individual actions and responsibilities. What are the things that we can actually do? Sheryl suggests we take three key actions: Sit at the table – don’t underestimate your skills and capacities. You don’t make the corner office or get a promotion when you don’t sit at the table when decisions are made. Make your partner a real partner – statistics show that women continue to take...

Does Your Boss Make You Sick?

A recent study in Sweden found a strong link between the health of employees and the quality of an organization’s leadership. Wally Bock points out that while we can understand that leaders can impact our productivity and performance – the link with health – our health means that we owe a duty of care to ourselves to work on a solution to this issue. Wally points out that no-one sets out to be a “toxic boss”, and that this situation arises under three situations: Your supervisor may not know how to do the job that you want them to Your supervisor may not have the resources needed Some supervisors can’t or won’t learn how to perform well in their job As a business leader, you can certainly assist in the first two scenarios. You can provide training and support for your management team. But it is the third situation that requires decisive action. If the behavior and actions of your supervisors is impacting the performance of their teams or their health, then you have no choice but to replace them. However, as Erika Andersen points out, our organizations operate like tribes. We can’t simply cut out and replace our employees with a carbon copy: An organization is a tribe, or series of interconnected tribes, and a tribe is a system. The members of that system are interdependent.  It’s necessary, in an organization, to remove and add people, but if you do it cog-fashion, it will impact the whole system in ways both invisible (confusion, fear, hesitation, sadness, disorientation, anger) and visible (less creativity, fewer reasonable risks taken, lowered productivity,...

We Did This Ourselves

There are some great books on leadership and, increasingly, some great blogs; and there has certainly been fascination with the subject of management and leadership over the last 20 years. Indeed, most generations seek to redefine “leadership” according to their own times. And while each new generation adds to the body of knowledge, sometimes it can pay to revisit the earliest leadership writings. Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, lived in 4BC and was a contemporary of Confucius. He is credited as the author of Tao Te Ching, which is widely quoted in management teachings. One of my favorite quotes comes from Chapter 17: Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, “We did this ourselves.” Great leaders know that personal power extends only as far as one’s personal reach. This is power by control. However, as Jamie Notter points out, “leadership is effectively a capacity within the entire system” — and when it works this way, ownership in the efforts of an organization rests with the entire team. By honoring the efforts and input of your village, leaders effectively transform their businesses with little resistance. After all, one does not need to “sell-in” a change when the change is self-initiated and driven by the individuals in your team. As Henrik Edberg points out on the Positivity Blog, Lao Tzu is about “getting things done” — which is another way of managing to outcomes. And as a leader, there can be no greater satisfaction than seeing your team celebrating...