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Golden Oldies: Book Review: Managing Leadership

Monday, January 16th, 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 what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I’m not a fan of the leadership industry; I think it has corrupted the whole notion of leadership. Anybody/everybody can be leaders at a given moment. Life changes and Jim Stroup, who wrote Managing Leadership, one of the best blogs on that subject stopped writing a couple of years ago. But all his wonderful posts are at the link and he also wrote an excellent book on the subject.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

During a conversation about positional leadership Richard Barrett said, “Reminds me of a Seinfeld joke. He pointed to professional sports teams and asked about team loyalty. The players change, the coaches change, and sometimes even the stadium changes. So, the people are really loyal to the logos on the team uniforms, just a pile of laundry. Maybe positional leadership is just laundry leadership?”

I like that—laundry leadership. Great term.

So what’s available instead of laundry leadership, especially these days when so much of the laundry is dirty?

Why not organizational leadership? Leadership that percolates from every nook and cranny of the enterprise driving innovation and productivity far beyond the norm.

Following this to its natural conclusion makes leadership a corporate asset and one that needs to be managed for it to have the highest possible impact.

Jim Stroup, whose blog I love, is a major proponent of this idea and defines and explains it in his book Managing Leadership: Toward a New and Usable Understanding of What Leadership Really Is And How To Manage It.

Of all the leadership books, Managing Leadership is the first book I’ve seen that breaks with the accepted idea of the larger-than-life leader whose visions people embrace and follow almost blindly.

Stroup says today’s corporations are far too complex for one person to know everything; that, given a chance, leadership will come naturally and unstoppably from all parts and levels of the organization making it a characteristic of the organization, rather than one person’s crown.

Sadly, fear makes the idea that leadership comes from all people at all levels and should be managed to make the most of it anathema to many senior managers; they consider leadership a perk of seniority and prefer squashing it when the source doesn’t occupy the ‘correct’ position.

I highly recommend Jim’s book. Even if the management above you doesn’t embrace this paradigm, you can within your own group. Encourage your people to take the initiative, guide them as needed, then get out of the way and watch them fly.

Entrepreneurs: Sign the Pledge

Thursday, December 15th, 2016


In case you didn’t see this in BuzzFeed, a group of techs got together and made a pledge.

A group of nearly 60 employees at major tech companies have signed a pledge refusing to help build a Muslim registry. The pledge states that signatories will advocate within their companies to minimize collection and retention of data that could enable ethnic or religious targeting under the Trump administration, to fight any unethical or illegal misuse of data, and to resign from their positions rather than comply.

Not luminaries, but people like you.

As of 10:30 pm Pacific Wednesday there were 1215 signatures.

The full text is at the pledge link (above) as are the instructions on how you can sign. There are also links if you want to be a more active participant or just want more information.

Why should you do it?

The words of Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor and rabid anti-Nazi, who spent seven years in a concentration camp explain it best.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Actively or passively; loudly or quietly you need to speak out over the next two years.

And in two years it will be up to you to help take back Congress.

Image credit: Karen

Golden Oldies: Leadership’s Future: the Key to Leadership and Life

Monday, May 9th, 2016


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.

It’s Initiative.

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.

Image credit: business mans on sxc.hu

Goodies from 2011

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

5863524614_edd6ee5dbf_mIt’s the time for Best and Worst lists, so here are links to some I found interesting.

First up is Dan McCarthy’s January Leadership Development Carnival: Best of 2011 Edition as chosen by each blogger.

Now take a look at the companies with the potential to unseat, or at least rattle, Zynga’s social gaming crown.

Many people died last year, some famous, but many just everyday people. They were important in their own world and their stories make fascinating reading. I especially liked the story of Keith W. Tantlinger; few have heard of him, but he profoundly changed our lives.

At the other end of the 2011 spectrum are the Worst CEO Screwups along with the Worst CEOs.

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.


Flickr image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

There is NO “I” in Leader

Monday, October 18th, 2010

 Mario Gomez, 59, is the oldest and the ninth of thirty-three miners 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.

Flickr image credit: Hugo Infante/Government Of Chile

Expand Your Mind: Of Learning and Leaders

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

expand-your-mindIt’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.

Of course, there are always those in positions of leadership that don’t lead, while some lead backwards and some even ass backwards but, sadly, it doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to their paychecks.

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.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedroelcarvalho/2812091311/

Blog Action Day: Leading Ways with Water

Friday, October 15th, 2010

no-grassToday 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.

Image credit: Miki Saxon

Leadership’s Future: Leadership, Context and Culture

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

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.

contextFirst, 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.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ingorrr/449613774/

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.

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Image credit: ravasolix on sxc.hu

The Sound Of Leadership

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Have you ever thought about what leadership sounds like?

Real leadership makes no noise.

Real leadership goes quietly about its tasks.

Real leadership doesn’t announce itself or blather on about what it plans to do in the future.

Real leadership isn’t a pied piper that mesmerizes you to follow along on its journey.

Real leadership happens every day all around you; it’s done by your colleagues, those you pass on the street and the people in your home.

So the next time you hear leadership be suspicious, be very suspicious.

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Image credit: user_fizik on sxc.hu

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