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Uber Suicide?

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/9698637692/Have you noticed that Uber-frenzy has eased off? It’s a nice change to see other lead stories taking its place.

The most valuable private company in the world is definitely at a crossroads.

There is one thing that’s definite and that is that without new leadership that can staunch the blizzard resignation at all levels, galvanize the troops, lead the change to a radically new culture, and keep all the wheels turning in sync Uber easily could fall from its vaunted position.

In short, the new CEO needs to be someone with a sterling reputation, a string of high profile successes, and a believable visionary who people will trust.

Is that how you would describe Marissa Mayer?

The last thing that Uber needs is someone who defends Kalanick and seems to excuse what happened.

“I count Travis as one of my friends. I think he’s a phenomenal leader — Uber is ridiculously interesting.”

Mayer, who may be campaigning for the Uber CEO role, added: “I just don’t think he knew. When your company scales that quickly, it’s hard.”

Mayer went on to say that Uber was going through the same kind of thing Google went through when Eric Schmidt was brought on as CEO to help founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

But Mayer is not Eric Schmidt; in fact, her two main qualifications seem to be being female and buddies with Arianna Huffington.

Of course, there’s a long way to go and a number of other names being bandied about.

If she is hired I’m sure the investors will be excited to watch Uber take the same path as Yahoo.

Image credit: Mike Mozart

Golden Oldies: ­­­Pssst, Want A Leadership Silver Bullet?

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of some of the best posts during that time.

I always find it strange that a post this old (2006) doesn’t need updating to be relevant — but it doesn’t. Nothing has changed. You are still the closest thing to a silver bullet that you’re going to find and it’s still all in your mind.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

These days (especially these days) managers spend time, energy and money (their company’s and their own) in an effort to move from manager to ‘leader’. They study examples and best practices, read books, attend seminars and classes, take advanced degrees, check out software, turn to the spiritual (if so inclined)—you name it, someone’s tried it.

Everywhere you turn you hear/read about how you need to be a ‘leader’ to get ahead, otherwise you’ll end up a <gasp> follower.

You probably won’t believe me if I say that the basic premise is bunk.

The dream is to find a silver bullet—all you need to do is say/do THIS—but it ain’t gonna happen.

But here’s the well kept secret—you already possess the closest thing to a silver bullet that exists and it’s all in your mind.

That’s right, it’s your MAP and, like a snowflake, it’s totally unique—yours, and yours alone.

And the magic that turns the bullet from lead to silver is your ability to consciously choose to change your MAP through your own awareness.

How cool is that? The very thing that frees you to soar and it’s not only yours, but also within your control.

Who could ask for anything more?

So never forget!

You are the silver bullet!

Image credit: ijm2007

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

Ducks in a Row: Lars Dalgaard on Being Human

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eiriknewth/474679387/This great leadership information from Lars Dalgaard, general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, is applicable to every boss, whether startup or Fortune 50.

The biggest thing in my life is really daring to be human, and that’s the approach I take to the working world. We could all be so much more human, but we don’t allow ourselves to do it. I think it’s because we’ve been brought up thinking that when you’re in a business role, if you show any emotion, then that’s the opposite of being tough.

The funny thing is that you’re actually a stronger leader and more trustworthy if you’re able to be vulnerable and you’re able to show your real personality. It’s a trust multiplier, and people really will want to work for you and be on a mission together with you.

Dalgaard’s approach is the opposite of so many of today’s bosses, who act as if every day is a tough mudder experience.

To them, being vulnerable is the same as being weak — and weak loses.

Worse, by acting on that belief they, in turn, force the attitude on their people.

The end result often turns a workplace into a warplace, with X% of your people trying to out-tough each other and the rest running for cover.

So give them, and yourself, a break by recognizing that you’ll go further, and have more fun getting there, by being, and showing, that you are human.

Flickr image credit: BK

If the Shoe Fits: Which Kind of Leader are You?

Friday, October 17th, 2014

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIn an interview Robert Herjavec said,

If you can’t inspire the people around you, you are going to fail. If you can’t inspire the people around you, you should go sell real-estate, because that is probably one of the only businesses where you could make a lot of money working completely on your own. But I think if you want to build a great business, you’ve got to bring other people along, and nobody wants to be managed. People want to be led.

His comment reminded me of a post from a few years ago that I believe is worth repeating.

Ducks in a Row: Leadership or LeadershIt?

If you truly want a culture of innovation, then you also need to create a culture of leadership.

Last week I commented that if the ‘i’ in leadership is capitalized it changes leadership to leadershIt.

Whereas leadership can be a great motivator, leadershIt is a guaranteed demotivator.

Visions and other leadership functions done with an eye to self-aggrandizement aren’t likely to resonate whether done by positional leaders, leaders in the instance or those who aspire.

Last year I wrote

Because initiative and leadership are synonymous, leadership needs to be pushed out of the corner office and spread throughout the organization; doing so will encourage growth, creativity and innovation.

If leadership is the fertilizer then culture is the water, without which nothing will grow, and people are the seeds from which ideas come.

By spreading leadership evenly through out your company garden and watering regularly, leaving no unfertilized or dry patches in which a seed will be stunted or die, you assure yourself a bountiful harvest that will be the envy of your competitors. (Two follow-up posts have more on this topic here and here.)

This isn’t a new idea, just a new way of phrasing it; Lao Tzu said it best 4000 years ago, “To lead the people walk behind them.”

The one thing that remains constant in all these discussions is that you always have a choice—this time it’s between leadership and leadershIt.

Image credit: HikingArtist

All You Need to Know to Be a Great Boss

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014


Many in the business world turn to Sun Tzu’s Art of War for guidance in their business dealings and as a basis for their company’s culture.

However, I’ve always preferred the teachings of Lao Tzu to underpin culture, because they provide a more solid platform to attract, motivate and retain the best people for any organization.

My favorite quote describes the perfect mindset and behavior for any boss who wants to be known as a leader.

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

In case you’re not sure how to put that into practice, Lao Tzu offers this advice.

Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Do You Abuse the i-word?

Monday, December 16th, 2013

stop-abusing-i-wordInnovation is hot. You hear it everywhere; I even heard a pastor talking about how he “innovates his sermons.”

In 2007 I wrote that the word “leader” was being badly abused; five years later I added “entrepreneur” to the abuse list and today I’m officially adding “innovation.”

It has lost its meaning.

There was a time it was used sparingly and when it was used it referred to stuff like the printing press; steam engine, penicillin, transistor, computer, Internet.

Things that rocked our world.

These days innovation refers more to brand extensions and iterations.

New versions of old stuff are termed innovation to a ridiculous degree—Kellogg CEO John Bryant used the i-word when talking about the company’s new Pop-Tart flavor.

I’m not saying the i-word shouldn’t be used more broadly, since it also signals both a goal and a special type of MAP

Let’s just agree to limit its use to the appropriate, as opposed to the ludicrous.

Image credit: sign generator

If the Shoe Fits: Being Alpha

Friday, October 5th, 2012

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mA couple of years ago I wrote a post about leadership that included a quote from the main character, a forensic anthropologist, in the TV show Bones.

Anthropology tells us that the Alpha male is the one with the crown, the most shiny baubles, the fanciest plumage, but I learned that the real alpha male is often in the shadows because he is busy shining the light on others.

Founders are typically alphas, whether male or female.

With that in mind I have a simple question to ask you.

Which kind of alpha are you?

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Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Expand Your Mind: a Look at “Leaders”

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

The word “leader” is all over the news; media loves talking about individual “leaders.” Executives and people in positions of power have worked hard for decades to perpetuate the myth that leaders are magical and larger-than-life; special, unique, irreplaceable and, above all, can’t be duplicated. But that emperor has no clothes, according to HBS Assistant Professor Gautam Mukunda, who, in his new book, Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter, kicks large holes in the myth that individual leaders really make a difference. (Book excerpt)

The result was his Leader Filtration Theory, or LFT, which states that a leader’s impact can be predicted by his or her career. The more unfiltered the leader, the larger the prospect of big impact. The more a leader has relevant experience, the less chance of high impact.

No where is the talk of “leaders” greater than in the political arena, especially during a Presidential election. An opinion piece focused on whether being gregarious is a requirement of leadership.

Culturally, we tend to associate leadership with extroversion and attach less importance to judgment, vision and mettle. We prize leaders who are eager talkers over those who have something to say.

The commentary reminded me of an excellent article last year by Douglas R. Conant, retired Campbell Soup CEO, on why introverted (as defined by Meyers-Briggs) bosses are just as capable and actually may have an edge.

As an introvert, I enjoy being by myself. I sometimes feel drained if I have to be in front of large groups of people I don’t know. After I’ve been in a social situation — including a long day at work — I need quiet time to be alone with my thoughts and recharge.

One way so-called leaders, (I prefer the more neutral term ‘boss’) can make a difference is found in how they treat people; one trait they all have in common is their approachability and engagement with everybody, not just their senior staff.

68 year-old Mickey Drexler, CEO of J. Crew, is and a well known face in all aspects and locations of the company—with employees and customers.

He visits every office, store and distribution center, and makes an effort to meet every new employee, although he’s always Mickey, not Mr. Drexler. (…) He’s been known to personally respond to a letter from a shopper who has a problem or a suggestion.

That involvement and initiative encouragement isn’t age-related. Thirty-something Ben Lerer, co-founder and C.E.O. of the Thrillist Media Group, encourages the same kind of action from his people through the culture he built.

One thing that we preach at work all day long is “don’t hope.” What that means is don’t wait for somebody to do something for you. Don’t do something 90 percent well and hope that it’ll slide through. Don’t rely on luck. You have to make your own luck. The only thing you can do is try your absolute best to do the right thing.

Finally, for those of you who want more on leadership checkout the information and interviews available at McKinsey’s Leading in the 21st century (free registration required).

In today’s volatile environment, leaders of global organizations must master a slate of challenges unseen in business history. In this feature, McKinsey talks with seven leaders and Wharton professor Michael Useem about the new fundamentals of leading in the 21st century.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Following Kills Initiative

Monday, August 27th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/6996819414/I don’t believe in “leaders.” Over the years I’ve spoken out many times against the idea that leaders are anointed and graced with special abilities, but am a big proponent of people showing initiative when it makes sense and stepping up to lead because they are the best person at that point.

Believing in initiative means I don’t believe in “followers.”

Followers rarely show initiative, make decisions or speak out when they disagree.

Followers have abdicated responsibility in favor of their “leader.”

Rather than saying the same stuff I’ve said before I thought you might ‘hear’ it better from someone like David Marquet, who, as the new captain of the nuclear powered submarine USS Santa Fe, “thought I would be a leader who empowered his subordinates.”

His wake-up call came when he ordered an action that couldn’t be done, but the officer passed it on anyway because he was told to by his “leader.”

Marquet offers first person proof that real “leadership” and “empowerment” don’t occupy the same space as “followers.”

I sincerely hope you will take the few minutes to click over and read something that could (should) have a profound effect on your management approach.

My thanks to Dan McCarthy at Great Leadership for including this guest post on his blog.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

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