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Entrepreneurs: What Leadership Looks Like

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

KG emailed me this cartoon and asked what I thought.

leader-bossI responded that I had a better image of leadership, only mine was drawn with words.

I’ve shared them here before, but a reminder never hurts.

As for the best leaders,
the people do not notice their existence.

The next best,
the people honor and praise.

The next, the people fear;
and the next, the people hate—

When the best leader’s work is done,
the people say, “We did it ourselves!”

To lead the people, walk behind them.

–Lao Tzu

Now that’s what I consider a beautiful image.

Image credit: Anonymous via the Internet

Expand Your Mind: Management and Leadership

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Today is not about the difference (if any) or which is more important (you can’t have one without the other).

Which is more important in a CEO, age or experience? With the advent of the Facebook IPO that decades old question is hot again.

The debate typically pits the benefits of creativity and familiarity with emerging technologies against the need for disciplined decision making and experience dealing with hard times.

It’s funny how inaccurate most assumptions are, such as the supposed power of C-suite leadership teams. (Requires free registration.)

But in actuality, the group rarely conducts its work in unison, as a deliberative body or a source of command. Instead, its power comes from its members’ informal and social networks, their determination to make the most of those connections, and their ability to work well in subgroups formed to address specific issues.

Finally, take a look at the winners of the M-Prize on Leadership along with other out of the box approaches at the Mix.

If organizations are going to evolve from the hierarchical, command-and-control structure that has dominated over the past century to a new model where trust, transparency and meritocracy are guiding principles, they’re going to need to change the way they develop leaders.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

If the Shoe Fits: Steve Jobs

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Wednesday saw the loss of the entrepreneurs’ entrepreneur, Steve Jobs.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about role models and mentioned that in some areas Steve Jobs wasn’t the best person to model.

Thursday I received an email suggesting I delete that post since Jobs had died.

I refused and explained that nothing had changed with his death.

While there is no question that Jobs was an extraordinary visionary; brilliant at creating the future and championing design as a development tool; exceptional as a marketer and his presentations are legendary, none of that changes or excuses his management style, which could be devastating.

Visionary leadership doesn’t preclude the ability to create a passionate culture that enhances employees, rather than diminishing them.

There is no doubt that Apple will miss Jobs, but there are many employees who will be relieved not to find themselves alone on the elevator with him even as the reason saddens them.

Which parts of Steve Jobs will you choose to emulate?

Image credit:

Ducks in a Row: Mea Culpa

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

In the popular vernacular, the expression “mea culpa” is an admission of having made a mistake by one’s own fault (one that could have been avoided if the person had been more diligent).

Mea culpa are two of the most powerful words any manager can say—as long as they are authentic.

Creating a culture where mea culpa is not just tolerated, but applauded is the mark of the best ‘leadagers’ (Leader + Manager discussion).

They offer no value if they are uttered insincerely or as a means to an end.

Publicly taking responsibility for an error, let alone a real screw-up, is the mark of a good leader, a great manager and a true mensch.

How often have you said ‘mea culpa’ and meant it?

Flickr image credit: ZedBee | Zoë Power

Leader vs. Manager in the Headlines

Friday, April 9th, 2010

If you were considering purchasing stock in a large corporation or a large bequest to a major non-profit and read the following comments about the CEO from people with firsthand knowledge of him would you buy the stock or donate the money?

  • He was never interested in bureaucratic stuff because he did not want to work as a manager.
  • He would be the first to concede he was much more interested in the life of the mind than the nuts and bolts of administrative work.

Last year when I wrote that bad managers didn’t make good leaders Mike Chitty responded, “I think you can lead if you are lousy manager. You just need good managers to cover your back. Teamwork you see.”

I disagreed then and I haven’t seen any reason to change my opinion—in fact, just the opposite. Right now the largest leader vs. manager mess is playing out on a global stage.

Pope Benedict XVIThe leader in question is Pope Benedict and the above quotes were about him.

In a comment two years ago Nick McCormick said, Leadership and management are very tightly intertwined. Ignoring characteristics of one is done at the expense of the other.”

According to a NY Times article, The church said the decision to allow the priest to resume his duties in 1980 was made solely by Cardinal Ratzinger’s top aide at the time, but church officials also said the future pope was sent a memo about the reassignment.

Obviously, leaders focus on visions and managers read memos.

The Catholic Church is the largest and probably the richest multinational in the world, so there are many business lessons to be learned from what is going on.

The two most obvious that I’ve noticed are

  • protect the brand no matter what, and, more recently,
  • the best defense is a good offense.

What do you think?

Image credit: Jari Kurittu on flickr

The Downfall Of Leadership

Friday, August 21st, 2009

At some point in the rise of the modern leadership movement, and the ensuing profit-making industry, leadership and management were set on divergent courses, with leadership presented as the brilliant star and management as the subservient drudges.

The results of this extreme focus on vision and influence are being felt globally in the form of the economic meltdown led by the Wall Street leadership who were above the mundane and wouldn’t dirty their hands with the gritty details of management.

In a brilliant opinion piece, Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University, founding partner of Coaching Ourselves and author of numerous, says, “U.S. businesses now have too many leaders who are detached from the messy process of managing. So they don’t know what’s going on. … Unfortunately, detached leaders tend to be more concerned with impressing outsiders than managing within. “

The current rise in advanced degrees in leadership can do nothing more than exacerbate the already dangerous attitude that so-called leaders are different/unique/special and, therefore, entitled.

And it is that sense of entitlement, exemplified so well by John Thain, that got us into this mess.

Those who want only to lead should become consultants and stay out of line positions, executive or not, where they can do so much damage.

Consultants are paid for visions, excel at influencing and then walk away bearing absolutely no responsibility for the results.

When will we stop this nonsense and accept that, depending on circumstances anyone can lead, anyone can follow, the positions aren’t cast in stone forever and the whole shebang needs to be managed along the way.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: ravasolix on sxc.hu

Lousy Managers Can Never Lead

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Did you know that you can’t lead if you’re a lousy manager? No matter how many leadership classes you take, books you read and seminars you attend if you don’t build good management skills you won’t lead anyone anywhere.

(By the same token, and I’ve said this many times, if you don’t practice so-called leadership skills you’ll have a tough time managing today’s workforce.)

Steve Wyrostek, in a guest post at Brilliant Leadership, has a list of actions so you can figure out if you’re a bad boss or a good one. He says “that a managerial jerk can never achieve good, sustainable results.”

True, although bad managers are known for bringing lots of fresh blood into their area—and then spilling it.

The trouble is that you can be a lousy manager without being terrible, a jerk or downright evil.

Call it lousy by benign neglect.

These are the ones who leave their people alone to find their own way with little guidance and less feedback.

Rather than manage they often focus on the big picture, providing their people with a detailed vision of what the future holds, but no operational map of how to get there, how far they’ve come or how far is left to go.

Leadership skills are important, but they can’t come at the expense of good management.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: flickr

Seize Your Leadership Day: 2 On Leading & 2 That Inspire

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

I keep files of interesting stuff I read and reorganize them each year; some are deleted, but most hold their value. Today’s choices include some of the oldies.

First up is a terrific article showing why leading isn’t about “fixing people” (neither is managing) and what you should do.

“People are not machines. They don’t need fixing. Using the “4 A´s” – awareness, acceptance, ask, and acknowledge…”

I highly recommend Front Line Manager. Scott says that he is a “relatively new manager” and he writes from his own experience and efforts. He’s a pleasure to read (I’m a writing snob:) and seems to be overflowing with common sense. My kind of leadager. I especially appreciated Change & Tough Times.

I’ve always stories about entrepreneurs raise my spirits. While I like reading about people who had the guts to go for the gold ring, I find entrepreneurial vision in kids even more inspiring.

“…the inspirational lives of five whiz kids who built million-dollar enterprises before the age of 20…Three are from the U.S., two from the U.K. All started at age 15 or younger–and one before he broke double digits.”

Finally, have you ever seen something that you thought was really cool, but you wouldn’t be caught dead doing it? That’s how I felt (still do) when I first read about having dinner in the sky. Fascinating, but not for a confirmed acrophobite. Besides dinner the company now offers other events, including weddings. I wonder if the idea will weather the current economic storm.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: flickr

Definition of a leader

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Post from Leadership Turn  Image credit: danzo08  CC license

It’s not unusual for me to come up with what I think will be a great post and then find someone else thinking about the same thing.

bright_idea.jpgLast Thursday I was sorting through ‘leadership’ articles and blog posts, once again disgusted with all the references to ‘leader’ and ‘leadership’ that had little to do with leading and much to do with position.

Suddenly the proverbial light bulb went on and I realized that I could actually define my version of leadership without using the l-word (I hate words that are defined using variations of themselves). I decided to let the idea simmer for a couple of days and see if it still looked good Sunday.

Then Friday I ran across Dan McCarthy’s post challenging his readers to define leadership as well as offering up a number of famous definitions.

Now that you’re primed, here’s my epiphany, feel free to shoot it down, tell me why and offer your own, but first some background.

On April 29 I wrote Leader/manager = leadager and followed it up with a seven-day series arguing that Warren Bennis’ statement “There is a profound difference between management and leadership…” doesn’t hold true with today’s modern workforce, i.e., great managers have to embrace Bennis’ leadership traits in order to motivate and retain their people.

OK, here’s my definition.

A leader is a great manger who is also a mensch.

What do you think?

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