This Week’s Leadership Favs

Our Friday leadership favorites are an eclectic collection of articles, blog posts, quotes, pod casts and whatever else engages our interest. Some items are recent, others aren’t. Some are mainstream, others are off the beaten path. Enjoy! Be inspired!

The Leader And The Peacock In The Closet (Terry Starbucker)

Striking the fine balance between confidence and humility is a perpetual challenge for many leaders. Terry shares some of his early lessons from powerful mentors who helped him learn how effective leaders think more about we and less about me.

Management Debt (Ben Horowitz, ben’s blog)

As Gary Hamel writes, business is full of irreconcilable trade-offs, yet Ben adds a new twist. ”…you will run into serious trouble if you fail to keep the trade-off in the front of your mind. There also exists a less well-understood parallel concept, which I will call management debt. Like technical debt, management debt is incurred when you make an expedient, short-term management decision with an expensive, long-term consequence.”

Power Failure in Management Circuits (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, HBR post)

What a great opening line:  ”Power is America’s last dirty word.” And what’s even more compelling (to me) is that this article was published in 1979…and is still totally relevant today. Read on to learn more about sources of power, powerlessness, and sharing power. Then, ponder, as the BIG team is, about when this is all going to change…

What The Eyes Reveal: 10 Messages My Pupils are Sending You (Psyblog)

If you are looking for clues as to what story someone’s eyes are telling you, you’ll find ten interesting possibilities here.  The second item was a surprise to the BIG team.

Three Convenient Non-Excuses Keeping Women Off Boards (Melissa Anderson, The Glass Hammer)

While research from Catalyst and a host of other sources shows the positive bottom line impacts of more women in senior teams and on boards, the presence of women on those roles remains limited. Melissa writes about ”three convenient non-excuses that boards make for their lack of business-building diversity – and to counter them.”

A thought to noodle: ”I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” ~Gilda Radner

Here’s to using your head to manage and your heart to lead!



Leadership Friday Favs 11.25.11

A Recipe for Appreciation (Susan Mazza, Random Acts Of Leadership)

Susan reminds us that “appreciation has two very important purposes – to let someone know you care and to let them know they matter” and goes on to offer a helpful three-part recipe for incorporating real thanks and gratitude into your daily actions. Most appropriate for the holiday season - and for every day of the year!

Authentic Leadership Development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership (by Bruce J. Avolio and William L. Gardner)

As we move into the beginning of the holiday season and the end of the year, it’s common to take stock of what we’re doing, being and becoming. If becoming a more authentic leader is something you’re noodling for making a positive difference in business, start here. This 2005 report from the inaugural summit on the topic as hosted by the Gallup Leadership Institute article details authentic leadership - what it is, how it’s different and how to practice it. There’s some fascinating reading here, and the links and references are a treasure trove of information.

Gratitude in Leadership: When Gratefulness Fuels Giving (Lisa Petrilli, C- Level Strategies - Visionary Leadership)

Stories bring such deep and meaning to leadership; and here Lisa shares a great story of being named Vice-President of the Indiana University Student Foundation, and how this experience taught her the power of gratitude.

Negotiating Challenges for Women Leaders (Harvard Business School Working Knowledge)

In both my corporate and entrepreneurial careers, this issue surfaces over and over again: women actively advocating other others yet remaining silent and/or holding back when the situation calls for negotiating on their own behalf. No doubt, it’s a double bind situation: speak up and be labeled aggressive; fail to negotiate for yourself and fall behind in earnings, etc. Chew on this nugget from this article: “That research shows that in conditions of ambiguity, if you bring men and women into the lab and you say either one of two things: “Work until you think you’ve earned the $10 we just gave you,” or “Work and then tell us how much you think you deserve,” the women work longer hours with fewer errors for comparable pay, and pay themselves less for comparable work. But if there’s a standard [that men and women know], then this result goes away.”

Moon Shots for Management (Gary Hamel, Harvard Business Review, February 2009)

At Get Your BIG On, we’re big on polarities – those both/and scenarios that seem contradictory yet are interdependent and both necessary. Things like being confident and humble, well-liked and powerful. In this article Gary Hamel itemizes a whole host of polarities necessary to revitalize management (another fav topic of ours!). Which of the 25 grand challenges resonates the most with you? Share your thoughts for an upcoming LeadBIG post.

Inspiring thought of the week: “I urge you to: trudge not through life leaving ugly gashes, tiptoe not through life leaving half-formed impressions; but tread gently, lovingly and purposefully, leaving graceful heart-prints.” ~Unity Dow, the Botswana High Court Judge


The irreconcilable trade-offs of leadership

Consider these words from Gary Hamel, ranked as one of the world’s most influential business thinkers by the Wall Street Journal.

Organizational success in the years ahead will hinge on the ability of employees at all levels to manage seemingly irreconcilable trade-offs – between short-term earnings and long-term growth, competition and collaboration, structure and emergence, discipline and freedom, and individual and team success.

Effectively managing these polarities requires top-notch leadership abilities – differentiating between either/or problems to be solved and both/and trade-offs to be perpetually managed. In Built to Last,  James Collins and Jerry Porras phrase it beautifully when they counsel to leaders to “avoid the tyranny of the OR and embrace the genius of the AND.” 

Besting those “irreconcilable trade-offs” requires leaders to demonstrate mastery of several personal both/and behaviors.

Confidence and humility.  Have enough self-confidence to recognize and appreciate your own self-worth, yet balance that with valuing and acknowledging the contributions of others.  It does take a village to lead.

Passion and caution.  Be filled with your purpose, and the thoughtfulness and awareness to know that others hold a different purpose.  Differences aren’t bad or wrong, just different.

Connect and challenge.  Connect with your strengths; understand your weaknesses, and use that wisdom to challenge yourself to live to your biggest and best potential. Do the same for those around you.

Pull and push.  Sometimes people need to see the light; other times they need to be the candle.  Help them either way.

Inquiry and advocacy.  Strive first to understand, and use your voice to promote, celebrate and teach others so they can live to their fullest potential.

Dream and do. Build those castles in the air; then jump off the cliff and make them happen.

Rejoice and reflect.  Look inward to understand the why, the why not and the how to be better. Celebrate often and share the joy, the pain, the silliness and wonderfulness of it all.

Sending smiles and inspiration to all!


The both/and dance of leadership

A version of this post first appeared on the Lead Change blog.

I marvel at the amount of time spent:

…on seeking to define and/or differentiate leadership and management.  How about we just do the work, focusing on people, principles and results; and not get hung up on labels?

…trying to prove that a specific list of leadership characters traits is the one and only. Can we agree that the list of worthy traits is long, that most are needed and that our time would be better spent leading than in creating a finite list that tomorrow’s business needs will change?

…espousing that one can only lay claim to being a leader if they have followers. Let’s we agree to disagree here and respect each other’s opinion, OK?

…vehemently asserting that leadership is only measured by results.  Can we agree to disagree on this one too, yet respect each other’s opinion?

…attempting to prove that managers do things right and that leaders do the right thing.  Can we say that supervisors, managers and leaders do things right and do the right things?

Life is big and complicated and fun and challenging and full of ambiguity. So are those things we call leadership and management and supervision.

Rarely is life and/or leadership an either/or end game. It’s usually more of a both/and dance in which we balance opposing and contradictory ends of an infinity loop.  In Built to Last,  Collins and Porras phrase it beautifully as “avoid the tyranny of the OR and embrace the genius of the AND.”

What say you?