It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly 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 what I consider some of the best posts during that time.
I wrote this six years ago, but it could have been 60 or 160 or longer. There isn’t now, nor has there ever been, a good substitute for initiative — and I doubt there ever will be in the future. Read other Golden Oldies here.
Monday I wrote that so-called leadership skills are actually the skills everyone needs to live a satisfying life and to that end they are well worth developing.
I also said I would share the most important trait of leadership—and life.
Initiative is the number one key leadership ingredient.
More so than vision or influence, it’s initiative that puts you in the forefront of any action, large of small.
Initiative is what
separates the doers from the observers;
stokes creativity and innovation;
drives entrepreneurial activity at all levels; and
makes the world a better place.
Initiative isn’t about schooling, although education can enhance it; it’s not about birth or clothes or cool. It’s not about networking or connections or followers on Twitter.
It’s about awareness; about noticing what needs to be done and doing it whether or not anybody is around to notice; doing it whether or not there is credit and kudos.
Initiative doesn’t wait for someone else to lead the way, nor does it play Monday morning quarterback to initiative taken by others, instead it actively contributes to that initiative.
Initiative doesn’t wait to occupy a certain position before becoming active, preferring to constantly seek ways in which it can contribute.
I believe that initiative is latent in every person, but it’s up to each individual to make it active.
Are you familiar with the Pogie Awards? They “celebrate the best ideas of the year: ingenious features that somehow made it out of committee and into real-world products, even if the resulting products aren’t that great.”
I get really sick of all the lousy ads, especially those for drugs. Ugh! That said, I do enjoy good ads, such as 2011’s top ten ads based on analysis by Zeta Interactive.
Finally, here are enough 2011 trivia questions to make your get togethers interesting for at least three or four months.
The whole world followed the 69 day struggle to rescue the Chilean miners and what they accomplished underground prior to and during the rescue. They are safe now, but their team attitude is just as strong.
The daughter of one of them says the men have agreed to share all their earnings from interviews media appearances movies or books. A fellow miner close to many of the men says they’ve hired an accountant to keep track of their income, and to distribute it equally. He says they’re going to be very close to the chest, and “will speak together as a group.”
The media presents it as one leader and 32 followers, but it doesn’t seem that the miners see it that way.
People love to quote the adage “there is no “I” in team” when somebody’s ego gets out of hand; perhaps a new adage is needed that states “there is no “I” in leader.”
Of course, someone will argue that there is an ‘i’ in leadership, which is true, but when ‘i’ becomes ‘I’ it changes leadership to leadershit.
It’s something we all know, although we tend to forget, leadership and positional leadership are not the same thing. Because anyone/everyone can lead, within the framework of their own lives, much of the information available about and for positional leaders can be absorbed and used by all.
Not that all positional leaders should be tarred by the same brush; there is still a lot for everyman to learn from leadership teaching from sources such as these.
Over the past six years, starting as a project focused on women that now includes men, McKinsey has developed a vision they call “centered leadership” that includes five specific dimensions. You may find it useful in putting more meaning and balance in your own life. (Free registration required.)
This concept has five dimensions: meaning, or finding your strengths and putting them to work in the service of a purpose that inspires you; positive framing, or adopting a more constructive way to view your world and convert even difficult situations into opportunities; connecting, or building a stronger sense of community and belonging; engaging, or pursuing opportunities disguised by risk; and energizing, or practicing ways to sustain your energy on a long leadership journey.
Do (did) you love or hate Shakespeare? Besides being one of humanity’s most accomplished writers, Shakespeare, like Lao Tzu, offers brilliant insights for all those who want to excel. Check out how Carol and Ken Adelman, founders of Movers & Shakespeares, use Henry V to teach leadership and let Shakespeare’s ideas guide you.
Henry V’s leadership skills and his ability to innovate in ways that would turn significant disadvantages into game-winning advantages.
What can you learn about leading a ‘culture of innovation’ on your iPod? And learn it not from a podcast, but through music from a guy who has constantly reinvented himself and his music to stay relevant in the current world.
Even if there is “darkness on the edge of town” today, when it comes to leading your company’s growth efforts with innovation expertise, there is no reason for your organization to be a casualty when you could instead “walk in the sun” (Born to Run).
And that’s not the only musical source from which you can draw lessons in leading, innovation, extending, inventing and reinventing yourself.
From business to fashion, Lady Gaga is an innovator, and she also makes a strong case as a leader.
Today is Blog Action Day where each year bloggers unite globally to write about a single problem. The theme is chosen from a list of possibilities by blogger vote—this year it is water.
I’ve been waiting for water to become a topic of concern for everyday Americans and it finally seems that its profile is rising quickly.
As critical as water is—in 2008 Business Week’s cover story was “T. Boon Pickens thinks water is the new oil—and he’s betting $100 million that he’s right” (Pickens is no slouch when it comes to assessing opportunities); the drought in the southwest is 11 years old, with no end in sight—I’m constantly surprised when the acts of everyday people indicate that water isn’t a major concern.
I live in the Washington State, right by the Columbia River, where, in spite of what seem like long, rainy winters, we have drought warnings and tinder dry forests every summer, as does the rest of the Pacific Northwest. (Click to learn about your home area)
Nobody will argue that serious water problems require intelligent leadership across a broad swath of organizations, but to some extent that’s a cop out, because it makes it someone else’s problem—not yours.
If you want to live a meaningful life, let alone aspire to be a leader, you must start by leading yourself. That means having initiative, taking responsibility for your actions, holding yourself accountable, and recognizing the consequences, both good and bad, of your actions.
Unfortunately, the NIMBY mindset comes in many flavors and the greater the personal inconvenience the less people are willing to personally act.
So I thought I would share some simple, no-to-low-cost things I do that make a substantial water difference.
Grass is a giant water-waster; the first thing I do with any home I’ve owned is get rid of the grass; currently I have English turfing daisy, which is perennial, doesn’t need watering, blooms much of the year and I can step on it (see picture). If you insist on having a lawn then plant one that is drought resistant. But if you live in an area where a lawn is an offence against nature (think LA, San Diego, Texas, Arizona, etc.) don’t even think about it—think xeriscaping instead.
Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. (Duh!)
Low flow fixtures are a given.
My shower is around 10 minutes or less; after all, they are meant to wash our bodies and hair; they are not the place to shave or other lengthy procedures. Believe it or not, 20-30 minute showers do not make you cleaner, but they can damage your skin.
If you are a bit more radical, like me, take the time to catch the water you run while waiting for it to warm up and use it to water houseplants, flush toilets, etc.
I adore my latest find. It’s an $18 gadget called HydroRight that anyone can install (no tools). It turns your normal toilet into a two-level flush toilet that lowers your water bill by saving around 15,000 gallons of water a year. And it really works! It’s great even if you rent, because you can take it with you when you move.
Those are my main water savers; I’m always looking for new ones, so please share yours below.
Almost every day I read at least one article or blog post to the effect that people should consciously start the day by deciding to lead, whether at the office, at home or in one of their varied activities.
And every time I clench my teeth and mutter to myself about the idiocy of the attitude.
Of course, it’s just my opinion, but here is why I think that way.
First, it is the court of public opinion that designates a person a leader, not the individual’s announcement that she is one, and the designation comes whether the leadership is lauded or lampooned.
In fact, talk of leadership is technically future or past tense—what should be done and what was done as opposed to what is being done in real-time.
Second is context. I have always found that discussions ignoring context seem nonsensical to me.
For example, the multiplicity of articles in the early 2000s that compared a company’s stock price and growth at that time to it’s high before the crash.
Even worse is the comparison of CEOs’ skill during that recession to their predecessors, or their own performance, during the expansion of the nineties.
Moreover, leaders are a product of their culture; drop them into a non-synergistic culture and watch them fail—often spectacularly and often taking the company down with them—think Bob Nardelli’s move from GE to Home Depot.
While culture is a company’s internal context, what is usually referred to as context is the external world situation and both affect leadership outcome.
So I have a suggestion for all those who jump out of bed promising themselves that today they will lead with no consideration of context.
Instead, try jumping out of bed each morning with the promise that you will show initiative within whatever context you face.
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.
Real leadership is found in everyday actions and the way you choose to live. You can’t dictate how others do it or how they perceive you, you can only control and direct yourself.
Today I offer up two ways you can lead.
If each of you do them and encourage three friends to do them and they each draw in three more and on and on we can make one hell of a difference.
First, the Four Freedoms Franklin Delano Roosevelt described in his State of the Union speech on the eve of WWII in 1941 seem to be on the wane in our own country.
So starting today be willing to defend each if you see it being subverted and remember that it’s their freedom—not your way or the highway.
Second, click AnySoldier and learn what you can do directly to help those serving.
“Any Soldier Inc. started in August 2003 as a simple family effort to help the soldiers in one Army unit; thus, our name. Due to overwhelming requests, on 1 January 2004 the Any Soldier® effort was expanded to include any member of the Armed Forces in harm’s way.”
So shake your piggybank, hit up the folks at the BBQ, have a garage or bake sale and DO something for those who are doing so much for you.
Do it whether you believe in the fighting or not. Supporting the troops has nothing to do with the politics that put them there, they are your brothers, sisters, friends, schoolmates, colleagues and they deserve everything you can do.
Finally, enjoy this stunning display of Army expertise. Beautiful, amazing and inspiring.
I have a great idea to make the world a better place.
Everybody who aspires to the cult of all-knowing leader stops.
Everybody who longs for an all-knowing leader embraces the reality that no such thing exists. (Jim Stroup has an excellent discussion on this that started June 8 at Managing Leadership. I highly recommend it.)
Replacing these, everybody would
learn leadership skills;
apply them constantly to themselves; and
occasionally in the outside world as circumstances dictated;
take responsibility for their own actions and decisions; and
partner with others as equals, whether one was in front or behind at any given time.
Not that I think there’s a chance in hell that this will happen, but it’s a nice thought on a beautiful summer Friday.