Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:

I.

Michael Useem on what got you here won’t get you there or reinventing yourself as you move forward:

“The factors that led others to select you to manage a team, an office, or even an enterprise, are going to change as markets and methods evolve, pushing you to the edge, and making it vital to continually consider the additional leadership capacities required now. The best capacities of an earlier time thus remain informative but also incomplete for the challenges we face ahead.”

Source: The Edge: How Ten CEOs Learned to Lead–And the Lessons for Us All

II.

Alaa Garad and Jeff Gold on how disruption and crisis require strategic learning across the organization:

“Leaders must engage in learning that is continuous and strategic, that has to include a willingness to embrace critical thinking to avoid … functional stupidity whereby leaders can prevent learning and change for the sake of maintaining and sustaining an order that they avoid justifying. In a similar manner, some leaders can be accused of hubris, show contempt for criticism from others and become capable of inflicting damage on their organizations.”

Source: The Learning-Driven Business: How to Develop an Organizational Learning Ecosystem

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Leading Thoughts Best Books of 2021

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twitter

twitter Here are a selection of tweets from September 2021 that you don’t want to miss:

The Person I Drive Craziest in Leadership by @RonEdmondson
4 Effective and Easy Ways To Relieve Stress At Work by @LaRaeQuy
Got a Problem? Think Like a Designer via @StanfordGSB
Split Second Decisions: Some Save Lives, Others Destroy Them by @PhilCooke
4 Ways You Can Immediately Become A Tough Leader Without Being a Jerk by @WScottCochrane
Mindset Matters: How to Embrace the Benefits of Stress Podcast (and transcript) with @AliaCrum, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford via @StanfordGSB
Are You Investing in a Growth Experience or Entertainment for Your Team Members? by @artpetty
6 Questions to Determine if Your Strategy is Old or Obsolete by @gavin_adams
Leading When You’d Rather Be Leaving by Tim Elmore via @GrowingLeaders
3 Indicators of a Healthy Leader by @shawnlovejoy
Decision-Making: How To Take The Long View from @JohnBaldoni
A Constitution Day Like No Other by @jamesstrock The Founders’ Dangerous Words for Tyrants Everywhere Should Not Be Classified as ‘Harmful Content’ by America’s National Archives
10 Reasons Smart Leaders Make Bad Decisions by @BrianKDodd
Career Opportunities and Employee Satisfaction by @Julie_WG
Two Questions You Should Stop Obsessing Over by @PhilCooke When you let budgets and deadlines drive your thinking, you get ideas that can easily be paid for and delivered – not ideas that change the world
AI Can Now Code: Are You Doomed? OpenAI’s new #AI platform means companies will need you to move from being a specialist to being a generalist.
Has the Word “Leader” Lost Its Meaning? from @wallybock
Hyperbolic Discounting and 7 Ways to Prevent Self-Sabotage by Ken Downer @RapidStartLdr If we can figure out how to make the closest reward one that supports the long-term objective, we will succeed
3 Ways Positive Thinking Can Empower You Right Now by @LaRaeQuy
7 tips for delivering bad news to your boss by @suzimcalpine
Turn Your Organization Into A Community from @JohnBaldoni
True Leaders Create Urgency Not Turmoil by @KateNasser Timely: “Leaders, Inspire people don’t frighten them.”
Boss’s Tip of the Week: Feedback is perishable from @wallybock
Feedback is Just the Beginning from @wallybock
The top 15 leadership blogs you should be reading in 2021 to become the aspirational leader
The Case for Bold Brand Names via @brandingmag
Are You Leading While Distracted? by @SusanMazza
5 Traits of Digital Leaders via @WestMonroe
You Own Smarter, Better, Faster by @artpetty Eight Questions to Jump-Start Moving Faster
What to Do if You’re Barely Keeping It Together Right Now by @hannahsmothers_

See more on twitter Twitter.

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A Minute to Think Power of Pressure

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Equitable Leadership

DURING the pandemic, one of us became a bit of a Star Trek fan. Minal was never really into science fiction, but she ran out of shows to watch and found herself intrigued when Stacey Abrams, who is famously a Trekkie, said that Voyager was her favorite Star Trek show, even though Deep Space Nine is considered the political allegory. Still, Abrams cited Voyager, and we can’t help thinking it was because of Captain Janeway. In Voyager, women finally had a realistic representation of female leadership aboard a Star Trek vessel, one that was determined and decisive but also empathic and willing to listen.

Still, Janeway doesn’t seem like such a big deal until Minal had finished watching all the Voyager episodes and decided to dip into Star Trek: The Next Generation (referred to as TNG among Trekkies, we’re told). The first season is almost shocking in how Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard carries himself. He’s brash and bossy and vents his frustration by shouting at children, particularly poor Wesley. In Picard, the recent revival of the Star Trek franchise, it’s clear the character evolves since season one of TNG. But we don’t think Captain Janeway would need to evolve as much if they revived her character. In fact, she’s almost a prescient paragon of what good leadership looks like in the 21st century.

For decades, outdated models of Western leadership have prevailed, primarily centering White culture and male energy: someone who’s certain of himself, who has all the answers, who takes up space, shows no weakness, and knows how to win. But in a world turned upside down — by a pandemic, by climate change, by a reckoning with systemic injustice — what does winning even look like now?

Leaders have been getting an inkling that things are changing, that the old tools aren’t working. They have tried to lead their staff through these changes by emphasizing we are more alike than different, that anyone who works hard can succeed here, and have been befuddled when staff respond with outrage or anger.

So what exactly is going on?

The definition and expectations of leadership have changed. Talented staff no longer want a general leading them into battle; they want a coach nurturing the best out of each of them. They want someone with the courage to be vulnerable and say, “I don’t know, but I’m committed to figuring it out with you.”

They want an equitable leader. Someone who sees the system. Someone who is not tolerant of difference but rather so comfortable with it that they are willing to embrace it and make it a feature, not a bug of the workplace. They want someone who understands that great organizations encourage everyone to play to their strengths instead of insecurely asking everyone to fit into a mold of the “ideal” employee.

However, our brains are wired to feel threatened by difference. In The Power Manual, Cyndi Suarez writes:

The concept of difference is central to interactions in relationships of inequality. Humans have used differences to value, divide, and structure society—as with race, gender, class, age, and sexuality. One’s relationship to difference impacts one’s interactions, either reinforcing these structures of value or interrupting them. The supremacist approach to power offers two options for dealing with difference: ignore it or view it as cause for separation. A liberatory approach views differences as strengths and entertains interdependence as an option.

How does one begin to nurture a liberatory approach to power?

By examining your relationship to difference. Not surface-level differences—like a disagreement in approach or process to employ, the kind of difference that challenges your worldviews, your beliefs, and values. Leaders must navigate and embrace the latter to create inclusive and equitable environments where everyone thrives. And as Jessica has discovered through her work coaching leaders, this requires a higher degree of emotional intelligence, specifically, emotional self-awareness and the ability to self-regulate in the moment. The good news is you can build these muscles with intentional and consistent practice.

Normalizing discomfort for yourself and your organization is critical. Why? Because experiencing deep differences often equates to deep discomfort, which triggers your brain’s fight or flight mechanism. In this mode, critical reasoning goes offline. You react out of habit verse skillfully responding from a place of choice. The work of the equable leader is to thoughtfully respond in the face of discomfort and to demonstrate openness for deep difference.

Equitable leaders are also skilled at seeing systems and understanding interdependence. While valuing difference is the first step in the process of developing “system sight,” leaders can hone their vision by understanding their own relationship to the systems they are in. The tool Minal uses to facilitate this understanding with leaders is the Group Identity Wheel, developed by DEI practitioners and executive coaches Sukari Pinnock-Fitts and Amber Mayes. The wheel helps individuals understand themselves in all their complexity and positions their identity in relation to systems and power. It also allows them to understand both their marginalization and their privilege. This is vital to being an engaged and equitable leader. If a leader is interested in being an ally to people without the same level of privilege, then they must ask themselves, “How can I lift up the voices that may be struggling to be heard over mine in this organization?”

This can be uncomfortable, which is why emotional intelligence is critical, particularly the stamina to do difficult things. It can be tempting to duck one’s head in the sand and simply believe that the outside world will not intrude upon your company. But ignoring reality makes you a poor role model for the courageous conversations we need to have if we really want to design a more equitable world where everyone thrives.

* * *Leading ForumMinal Bopaiah is the author of Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives. She is the founder of Brevity & Wit, a strategy + design firm that combines human-centered design, behavior change science and the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility to help organizations transform themselves and the world. Bopaiah has written for the Stanford Social Innovation Review and The Hill and has been a featured guest on numerous podcasts and shows, including the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU. She has also been a keynote speaker for many conferences, inspiring thousands with her credible, authentic, and engaging talks.
Jessica Zucal is a Senior Principal with Evans Consulting. As a change and transformation expert she works with leaders at the individual, team, and organization levels to build capacity for change and establish enabling conditions for success. Jessica is a NeuroLeadership trained coach and certified EQ-I 2.0 practitioner.

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People are Job 1 What It Takes to Lead

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Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:

I.

Geoff Tuff and Steven Goldbach on the need for flexible thinking:

“We must dispel the notion that strong leaders don’t change their positions … or, dare we say, learn. Flipflopping when you have new information – flexing your thinking in an explicable way – is absolutely a hallmark of effective leadership in the face of accelerating change.
“Good leaders have an intuitive sense of things that must be true for their organizations to be successful and consistently check whether these conditions remain true in the external environment. They are on the lookout for things that could destroy the business model they have created. And if something changes that gives them pause, they aren’t afraid to make adjustments. When your business model may be at risk of implosion, it’s a very good thing that leaders changed their tune.”

Source: Provoke: How Leaders Shape the Future by Overcoming Fatal Human Flaws

II.

Historian Adrian Goldsworthy on concerns over the growth of organizations:

“It is only human nature to lose sight of the wider issues and focus on immediate concerns and personal issues.… All human institutions, from countries to businesses, risk creating a similarly short-sighted and selfish culture.
“Success produces growth and, in time, creates institutions so large that they are cushioned from mistakes and inefficiency.
“In most cases it takes a long time for serious problems or errors to be exposed. It is usually even harder to judge accurately the real competence of individuals and, in particular, their contributions to the overall purpose.
“For the vast majority of people, their work is less open to the public gaze but is similar in that the real consequences of what they do are not obvious.”

Source: How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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Never Say Never

LANGUAGE matters.

As I conduct observation coaching with leaders, I watch for how their words resonate with their audience. Does what they say induce fear? Excitement? Do attendees in the meeting cringe at certain words, or do their metaphors generate inspiration?

Effective leaders use communication as a critical competency to build trusting relationships, align team members around a vision, lead necessary change, and drive action. Communication involves verbal, non-verbal, and intuitive delivery and receiving of messages. It also requires listening and speaking with intention. In support of that, the communication process typically involves five critical steps.

Source: the sender of the message who is communicating
Encoding: the way a sender frames a message into an easily understood format that can be sent and received. This step requires the sender to know their audience and convey their message clearly and concisely to support understanding.
Channel: how you deliver your message (i.e., verbally through a meeting, phone calls, video conferencing, written, emails, memo,s text, and social media).
Decoding: occurs when the receiver actively listens to a message to ensure accurate transmission and interpretation.
Receiver: Receives the message and brings their own perspectives, experience, feelings, and histories that impact how a message is received.

Any missteps, gaps, or errors in these stages can lead to a serious breakdown in the communication cycle. It can destroy relationships, damage trust, and contribute to adverse impacts on business outcomes. In medicine, law enforcement, education, and almost every profession, communication failures lead to lasting negative impacts.

The best leaders maneuver these five steps in a way that leaves their teams feeling heard, understood, and valued. To accomplish this, leaders have a responsibility to ensure they are appropriately using every step of the communication cycle to deliver an accurate message.

Effective communication is difficult for a variety of reasons. Our lack of knowledge around cultural differences, as well as human factors such as stress, fatigue, and communication skills, all play a role in the potential breakdown of communication. Today, there is an emphasis on rapid decision making, and fast-paced problem solving that often involve many parties and differing perspectives.

Given these variables, there are several things to keep in mind to avoid communication breakdown.

1. Avoid Certain Words

There are words that create a negative emotional reaction regardless of the intent behind the word. We certainly do not need to eliminate all these words, but carefully considering your purpose, tone, and the desired reaction can ensure these words do not leave others frustrated or disengaged.

Why
“Why did you do that?” “Why didn’t you just do this?” “Why wouldn’t you just . . .?”
When we start a sentence with why, we are often seeking clarity. However, “why” can cause people to become immediately defensive, guarded and feel they need to justify their actions. In an effort to protect themselves, fight or flight kicks in and you do not get the best response or discussion. While there are times when this is the most appropriate word to bring forth, be cautious about when and how you use it and pay attention to the reaction in others.
Just
This word becomes problematic when we use it in the context of people. For example, “Pat is just our assistant,” “You need to just figure it out,” or “Just wondering if you’ve looked at the proposal.”
When we use the term in these contexts, it can be demeaning and diminishes the role, effort, and value of others. Leaders who inadvertently use this language risk diminishing confidence and value amongst their team members, even when the statement is not sent directly to one of them. Using just risks making others feel insignificant.
But
The dreaded but. “You did a great job, but” “Sorry I’m late, but” or “I wanted to help, but.” When we use this term, often, it negates the phrase before it. When we issue a compliment, followed by but, the listener only hears the criticism that follows, and the previous statement is lost. It can feel critical and take on a tone that lacks accountability.
Often, we can replace the word in our language with “and” instead. This simple switch will elevate how people feel about your comments and feedback. Try it.

2. Be Cautious When Using Idioms

I have made this mistake too many times to count. Recently, I met with a partner from France. I used the idiom, “let me put a bug in your ear,” to share an idea I wanted her to consider. That phrase was unfamiliar to her, and my intention was lost on her.

While idioms seem helpful to make a point, there is also a significant risk that they originated and have a history that is different than your intention in today’s world. Ethic, cultural, racial, or religious idioms that were accepted and used in the past may no longer be appropriate today.

3. Avoid Absolutes

“Nobody does it better,” or “I have the best employee/team.” Again, while this is often used to elevate those close to us, it generally has the effect of alienating others and diminishing their skills and abilities. Additionally, terms like all, none, must, never, only, always can be hooks. They have no exceptions and do not leave room for error or discussion. They can be taken as condensing and make others feel inferior.

The words we use matter, especially in a leadership role where our teams regularly react and listen closely to what we share. Start paying attention to the reactions you receive when speaking and cut out the words and phrases that are spurring a negative response.

* * *Leading ForumLaurie Cure is the President and CEO of Innovative Connections. Her focus is consulting in strategic planning, organizational development, talent management, and leadership, including change management and culture evolution. With more than 25 years of leadership experience, she has dedicated her career to delivering strategic visions, working with executives/senior leaders to drive organizational outcomes, and researching and publishing on important industry issues and topics. She is the author of Leading without Fear, about overcoming fear in the workplace. You can connect with her on her website and on LinkedIn

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5 Gears Meeting People Where They Are

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Data Ruben Ugarte

SOMETIME between the 1st and 4th century, something incredible happened. Indian mathematicians invented a system for measuring objects. Arabic mathematicians eventually adopted the system, and it was through them that Europe would eventually learn about the numerical system we still use today.

Ever since then, numbers have played an important role in our lives. Statistics surround us, and leaders need to have a good grasp of numbers’ roles within their companies. Here are the key things leaders should know about data — and what things they can safely ignore.

Data Can Speed Up Decisions

The decisions that you make as a leader can have an outsized impact on your company. Data can help you speed up these decisions and ensure that you’re making the correct choices. If you’re exploring a new market to enter, data can provide you with potential projections about sales and give you an idea of the type of customers within this market.

The quality of your decisions and the speed at which you make them matter. Look back at the last year, and you’ll realize that it wasn’t just about making the right decision, but doing it rapidly. The entire world went into lockdown within weeks, and leaders had to determine how to shift entire companies into remote work, change how they serve customers and try to figure out how to survive.

You can also use data to help your team make better decisions. Leaders know that they need to delegate, but the actual process isn’t always clear. The people under you may not have the same confidence or intuition, but they could be accessing the same information. They could use data to guide them to the right decision without your involvement. Better yet, they can measure the success of their decisions.

Data Is Your Flashlight and Map

Think about a cave. It’s dark, humid and you can’t see more than a few feet ahead of you. You know there’s an exit somewhere, but you’re not sure how far it is or what path to follow.

It would be nice to know the exit direction, but instead, you have a map and a flashlight. And that’s all you actually need! As you lead through uncertainty, think about how your team adjusts to last-minute changes and what kind of map you’re using. The best leaders can quickly create maps for new situations — and better yet, they know when to abandon the map and when to follow it.

The new CEO of UPS, Carol Tome, came in with a simple idea: saying “no.” UPS should say no to the wrong customers, wrong product lines and wrong ideas. UPS stock has risen over the last year, and it’s well-positioned to grow beyond the pandemic.

I don’t think Ms. Tome knew exactly what might happen under this strategy, but she gave her team a map and flashlight. She trusted that her team could adjust midway through and continue moving towards the exit.

Data Can Help You Measure Success

Measurement is important in providing options for determining opportunities and new ideas — and determining whether the direction you take is successful.

Think about what data you’ll be using to measure progress on your goals. You can explore reports, dashboards and working with specific people to generate the relevant data.

Consider also scheduling regular touchpoints to talk about the data and discuss opportunities. What new customer segments are appearing? What products or services should you abandon?

Innovation needs to be consciously thought through and carried out. Look at Great Britain’s efforts for funding innovation. It has plans to create its own Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and give money to innovative ideas. The results are yet to be seen, but it’s moving in the right direction. Leaders are ahead of the pack, trying to scout these innovation opportunities.

Numbers have been a blessing and a curse. They’ve given us the ability to understand our world, but they aren’t always intuitive. Use data to speed up your decisions, guide you in the dark and measure success. Better yet, use data to become a better leader for your team.

* * *Leading Forum
Ruben Ugarte is founder of Practico Analytics, providing expertise in data analytics. He has worked with companies on five continents and in all company stages, helping them to use data to make higher quality decisions, boost performance, increase profitability, and make their teams world-class. He also maintains a popular blog with more than 100,000 readers. His new book is The Data Mirage: Why Companies Fail to Actually Use Their Data (Business Expert Press, January 22, 2021). Learn more at rubenugarte.com.

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Predictive Analytics Competing in the Age of AI

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Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:

I.

Steve Farber on doing what you love in the service of people:

“It doesn’t matter whether the leaders are in the front or the rear. What matters is the way they are leading the pack. In either case, the leaders are serving other members. The leaders in the front are forging the path, providing direction, and making it easier for others to go where the pack needs to travel. The leaders in the rear are providing support. They are watching over the pack and ensuring that no one is left behind. There might even be some leaders in the middle of the pack because here’s the thing about leaders: they serve others no matter where they find themselves.”

Source: Love is Just Damn Good Business

II.

Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness on how our passion can eventually lead us astray:

“Those who are most focused on reaching some external barometer of success are often the same people who struggle most to enjoy it. That’s because they’ll always crave more. More money. More fame. More medals. More followers.
Researchers have found that regardless of the field, individuals who display obsessive passion are more likely to engage in unethical behavior and are at a higher risk for anxiety, depression, and burnout. Their relationship with their passion is likely to erode, and their overall life satisfaction is poor.
They become so obsessed, so focused on and tied to external results, that nothing else matters. It’s not that they are no longer passionate. It’s just that they are no longer passionate about baseball, or energy, or leading a company, or scientific discovery. They become passionate about results, fortune, fame, and winning.”

Source: The Passion Paradox

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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Teaching By Heart

DESPITE what the title Teaching By Heart might imply, it is really a book about servant leadership. It is a journey into self-awareness so that you can serve those you lead or seek to influence in spite of your self-doubt, anxieties, and insecurities. It is a remarkable book and a perfect means to refocus your leadership development this year.

Professor of management and organizational behavior at Harvard University, Thomas DeLong, writes, “I’ve found that the best teachers are also leaders, and the best leaders are also teachers.” I completely agree, and it is easy to see the parallels.

Using himself as a case study, DeLong generously shares what goes on in his head and heart as a teacher. He shares what he has observed how in a teacher’s “best moments, they can life people up, and in their worst, let them down.”

You will learn what it takes to teach and lead better. You will gain a better understanding of yourself. Through his introspection, you will come away with a better grasp of your own patterns of behavior. You will understand the need to ask yourself: “What is it that I do consistently that assists me living and teaching, that leverages my talents in unique ways? Just as important, you need to understand those emotional or behavioral patterns that sabotage your efforts to make a difference.”

As teachers [and leaders], we focus more on our inadequacies and failures than on our strengths and accomplishments. I’ll deconstruct why this is so. I will walk you through the heaven and hell of teaching by dissecting and analyzing what I’ve experienced in the Harvard Business School classroom.

After thirty-five years of teaching, DeLong still has anxiety about teaching. To counteract the doubt and anxiety on the days he teaches he must get into the classroom early. “Rather than listen to irrational thoughts and feelings, I need to engage with the ‘enemy.’ I need to look students in the eyes and engage. I need to get out of my head and be interested in something other than my thoughts and feelings and insecurities. The pattern that surfaces is he either/or syndrome. Will I leave the classroom with a feeling of either success or failure? So even if you aren’t a teacher who is wrapped up in your own doubt and insecurities, you should know what your patterns are—the tendencies and habits that either serve or disrupt your effectiveness.”

“As the instructor, you need to increase the probability that your students will see and experience and feel what you want them to experience.” This doesn’t just happen. This is a challenge for teachers and leaders.

Self-Awareness and Growth

This self-awareness is a negative and a positive—a negative because it caused me to beat myself up continuously over my real and imagined shortcomings, a positive because it helped me become cognizant of my patterns.
By remonstrating with myself over my actions, I hope I decrease the chances that I’ll repeat this bad behavior. I still might. But I trust that I will do it less.

On Knowing Students

I am freer as a teacher if I feel I know the students on some level, better able to adjust and adapt o their requirements. My hope is to turn their mindset from one of certainty to curiosity where their assumptions can be tested, confirmed, or revealed to be false.”

The Power of Covenant versus Contractual Relationships

As leaders, we create a covenant with those we lead. A covenant is a good way to think about a leader’s relationship with others. Three elements make up the covenant leaders make with their people. “I promise to set direction with you, to secure your commitment, and help you execute. If I do these things, you’ll succeed and so will the company. This is the covenant leaders establish with their employees, and it drives performance far better than salary and perks.”

Teachers create this covenant with students in much the same way leaders do with employees.

First, students must know that they are in safe, competent, understanding hands. The first dimension is built on faith.
Second, students need to know that teachers care about them and their work. They learn this through feedback, interactions in the classroom, and observing them interact with their peers.
Third, students must feel like they are learning and growing and developing. They need to know that they are being stretched and pushed and challenged with new knowledge, that their assumptions are being tested, and they must gain new knowledge about themselves.

Contractual relationships are transactional. It’s all cognitive. “Contractual leaders and teachers worry about their image, how they are perceived by their boss—a manager or department head. They possess little empathy for others because their goal is to survive where they perceive themselves to be unwelcome.”

Reflections

The ideas expressed here are valuable to leaders in many roles—parents, teachers, pastors.

One of my goals for the students is to have them stand back and face their own life path. An underlying assumption is that the students will do less harm if they are aware of why they do what they do. They will hurt themselves and others less if they understand the purpose and path they are on. I don’t pretend that they should have an answer, but I would like them to be asking questions about their journey before, during, and after the experience at HBS.
As I gaze out the window and reflect, I question whether I’m helping students become more adaptive. Will they make it through their next crucible with greater resilience? Can they maintain a clear head in times of crisis? Do they become paralyzed with fear? Do they wait for someone else to save the day? Are they unable to be the people they were before they experienced the hardship? I want them to be able to keep tough feedback in perspective. I want them to be able to be direct when a tough conversation is necessary?
We need to have “road miles” so that we, through the process of elimination, understand the intersection between our values, motivations, and needs.
I try to highlight that we need not only to focus on the integration of work and play, of home and work but to be more aware of the quality of life we create with those who are near and dear to us.

Avoid Focusing on the Negative

If we use external criteria to define success or happiness, we will come up short, given the powerful influence of our negative-remembering reflex. Everything gets distilled and reduced to one reflection or observation. The technical term for this cognitive process is asymmetric effect with a negative bias. It holds us captive in everyday life.
I find myself returning to the internal dialogue that reminds me of my negative or self-doubting narrative than my self-affirming story. I find that my negative voices are louder than my positive ones, and so I lose confidence and my classroom persona is diminished—I am unwilling to push myself as a teacher, failing to try something new or push boundaries, since these classroom behaviors all carry risks.
The goal, then, is to remind ourselves that we possess a positive story, not just a negative one.

Three Guiding Questions

DeLong offers three guiding questions that will help guide our efforts to be authentic and genuine:

1. How do I experience others? What do we believe about others? The answer will inform how we interact with others.

2. How do others experience me? How do I portray myself to others?

3. How do others experience themselves when they are in your presence?

Teaching By Heart is a very relatable book that all leaders should read. Leadership comes in many forms, but we all deal with the same issues. DeLong’s journey will help.

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Jerry Colonna on True Grit John Hennessy on the Leadership Journey

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Robert J Brown

ON Martin Luther King Day, it is worth meeting a close friend of his, Robert J. Brown.

Brown is the great-grandson of a slave. Raised by his grandmother in High Point, North Carolina, she used to tell him, “Bobby, do the right thing because you can never do wrong, doing right. You can’t go wrong.” And that has proven true for him over and over again.

Although he grew up in poverty, his grandmother—he called her Mama—taught him about stewardship early on. Once when he was young, he asked her, “why do we give our food to these people who spend their days and nights drinkin’ and sleepin’ in the street when you and Daddy and Bill and me work so hard to put it on the table?”

My question must have touched something in her. Mama waved for me to come up and sit in the chair with her. When I’d settled in, she told me a story from the Bible, of the time when Jesus knocked on someone’s door for help, but they turned Him away because He was dressed in rags.
“If I never teach you anything else,” she said, “I want to teach you that one thing—you never know which way the Lord will come to you. He will test you to see if you follow His teachings. So, life is all about giving, sharing, and serving others. If you give whatever you can, the Lord will give you more than you will ever need. He will take you up so high you won’t believe it.”
Mama was wound up. I listened as a life’s worth of lesson poured out of her.
“Son, you don’t have to be rich to give. We aren’t rich, but we had food in the pot today. The Lord provided that food, and he provided it to me so I could share it with others. He gave us enough to share. That’s what you should do with your life, Bobby. Whatever you get, make sure you try to help somebody else with it, because the Lord gives it to you so you can give it to somebody else.”

RobertBrown and MLKAnd that’s what Bob Brown went out and did with his life. Besides being a personal friend to Martin Luther King and an advisor to Nelson Mandela and his family, he was the highest serving African American leader in the White House under President Nixon. He worked in the presidential campaigns of both John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. He holds ten honorary doctorate degrees and six national achievement awards. He has also been honored as a recipient of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Award. He also serves on the board of the Richard Nixon Foundation and is chairman of the High Point University Board of Trustees. He founded and is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of B&C Associates, Inc., a management consulting, marketing research and public relations firm.

Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Great people stand on the shoulders of great people, and for Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and many others, Bob Brown helped make their success possible. His remarkable story is chronicled in his inspiring autobiography, You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right: How a Child of Poverty Rose to the White House and Helped Change the World.

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Impact of Great and Terrible Leaders

MOST PEOPLE have been around a bad leader at some point. Someone who doesn’t communicate, sets impossible expectations, or is just difficult to be around. You’ve likely experienced the draining, exhausting feelings from having to work with or for that person. Hopefully, most people have also experienced a great leader. These are the people who inspire and motivate and encourage people to do their best work towards a common goal.

If you’ve experienced a bad leader and a great leader, you know the difference between the two can be night and day. But how do we turn those feelings into real action to develop great, future-ready leaders?

What Makes a Great Leader?

As part of my new book, The Future Leader, I interviewed more than 140 CEOs around the world and asked them each to define leadership. Their definitions were all over the board and included things like leaders being able to drive business success and reach goals to human skills like connecting with people and being humble. One of the main themes was that people believe a successful leader is someone who makes money and grows a business. The financial results definitely contribute to being a successful leader, but there is so much more that goes into becoming a truly great leader.

Consider these two definitions from CEOs I interviewed.

Judy Marks is the CEO of Otis Elevator and leads a team of over 70,000 employees around the world. According to Judy, “I think it’s really the ability to drive results, and I’ll leave that word results fairly generic. My role in terms of leadership is to set the vision and to share it. To create an environment where people can resonate not only with the mission but deliver it. To eliminate obstacles so my team can succeed.”

Hans Vestberg is the CEO of Verizon Communications, an American multinational telecommunications conglomerate with over 152,000 employees around the world. Hans believes leadership is: “Ensuring that people have everything they need to achieve the missions of an organization. That’s it. All else is footnotes.”

Which one most resonates with you and why?

First and foremost, great leaders care about their people. They are willing to go the extra mile to serve and get the job done. A great leader knows that a company isn’t really successful if its numbers improve but its people aren’t happy. Leaders help shape the world and have a profound impact on their employees’ lives. If you’ve had the chance to work for a great leader, you know those lasting feelings: a great leader inspires you to be better, mentors you along the way, and gives you the tools to succeed. Great leaders help the people around them improve, even to the point that their employees are better equipped than the leader themselves. When individuals are motivated and engaged, they naturally want to work harder and better, which brings financial success.

Impact of Great Leaders

Great leaders create engaged employees who want to come to work and give their best effort. A study by Zenger Folkman found that good leaders can double company profits, simply with their ability to motivate and engage employees. Organizations with the highest-quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform their competitors. Another study found that how managers lead accounts for a 28% variance in employee job satisfaction. Any company would love to have an increase in employee satisfaction, and it’s as simple as putting great leaders into management positions.

Great leaders also breed other great leaders. If you work for someone you admire and who displays great leadership skills, you’re more likely to also develop those skills and abilities. A great leader is like a pebble dropped in a pond who creates ripples of other good leaders all around them for years to come.

What Makes a Bad Leader?

On the flip side, a bad leader doesn’t care about people or creating an environment where employees want to improve and do their best work. Bad leaders often make their employees feel like cogs in the machine who are just there to clock in, do their job, and then clock out. Bad leaders often only care about the numbers or advancing their own career instead of creating a team mentality and moving the company towards success.

Impact of Bad Leaders

Employees who work for bad leaders often feel like their jobs are unenjoyable and meaningless. Studies have shown that working for a toxic leader leads to lower job satisfaction, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. But that lack of satisfaction carries over into other areas of employees’ lives. A study from the University of Manchester found that employees working for bad leaders or managers were more likely to experience clinical depression and over time became overly critical of their co-workers, took credit for each other’s work, and showed aggressive behavior to other people in the company. Clearly, the attitude of a bad leader isn’t contained in a single person. A leader sets the tone for the organization, which means their bad example and energy can spread through the entire organization and poison even good employees.

Bad leaders cause employees to become disengaged in their work and are one of the biggest reasons for employees leaving their jobs. In many cases, employees don’t quit companies—they quit managers and bosses who are difficult to work for. A Gallup survey of more than 1 million employees found a staggering 75% of people who had quit their jobs had done so because of their boss and not the actual position.

Developing Great Leaders

There’s a stark contrast between good leaders and bad leaders. It’s often easy to point out bad leaders in past organizations or looking in from the outside, but it’s more difficult to make a change when you’re in the midst of working for a bad leader. Companies shouldn’t be afraid to overhaul their internal teams and processes to get rid of bad leaders.

It’s impossible to only hire superstar leaders; organizations also need to learn how to develop people internally to create great leaders. Good leaders have a strong impact on the culture and overall success of the company. Investing in future leaders can have a large return as they motivate employees and help grow the company.

Leaders have the potential to make a huge impact in their organizations. Great leaders can inspire employees, attract talent, and increase revenue, while bad leaders can create a toxic environment and drive away employees and customers. Organizations need to prepare for the future by identifying and removing bad leaders and then replacing them with strong leaders and an internal leadership development program.

What kind of a leader are you and what kinds of leaders does your organization want to create?

* * *Leading ForumJacob Morgan is one of the world’s leading authorities on leadership, employee experience, and the future of work. He is a 4x best-selling author, speaker, and professionally trained futurist. He is also the founder of The Future of Work University, an online education and training platform that helps future proof individuals and organizations by teaching them the skills they need to succeed in the future of work. His new book, The Future Leader, which is based on interviews with over 140 CEOs around the world is coming out January 2020.

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