Can leaders be kind and show love?

I recently asked a male colleague for his thoughts on why so few women are included in the multitude of leadership guru/expert lists.*

Our fascinating exchange…

“Most women don’t write solely about leadership. They throw in other stuff that keeps them off those lists or doesn’t make them top of mind.”

So where do they go wrong in your view?

“I’m going to use you as an example. When you write about leadership, you throw in that phrase about using your heart to lead. That’s getting outside the parameters of leadership.” 

How so?

“Leaders — and remember, Jane, this is just my opinion — set direction and define the vision. They create alignment. They play the devil’s advocate and identify problems. Leaders manage change. They motivate people and develop other leaders.”

Nothing there I disagree with. Wouldn’t using one’s heart come into play with most or all of those items?

“Not really.”

It seems to me there’s lots of room for caring, and dare I say, love, in executing those responsibilities.

“That’s where you and most of the other women, and even some men, go wrong when you write and consult about leadership. You have to leave love out of it. I know you’re not talking about romantic love, but you are talking about affection and fondness. Leadership is about business, about economics, about getting the job done. People who focus on those things are the ones who get included in the lists you asked about.”

That’s an interesting perspective. So what about kindness and compassion. Is there room for that in leadership in your view?

“You know I don’t advocate or support abusing people or being mean to them. No good leader stands for that happening.”

Of course.

“I’m just saying that no one’s performance gets evaluated on kindness or compassion.”

True, but don’t you think it’s time for some of that to change?

“Jane, I’m just telling you the way it is, which I know isn’t the way you want it to be. Enough said?”

Enough said.

Wow! Today is Valentine’s Day, so I’m inviting all leaders — especially those with big job titles and formal organizational chart power — to bring a little kindness and compassion (and dare I say love) into your interactions today (and tomorrow). Focusing on both task and relationship, rather than focusing on one over the other, pays big dividends in lots of ways both large and small.



*This list certainly isn’t scientific nor representative of scads of exhaustive research! It’s what popped out in a quick Google search. 1 out of 25 on World’s Top 25 Leadership Gurus. 4 out of 50 on October 2011 Top 50 Leadership Experts to Follow on Twitter. 18 out of 100 on NeverMind Awards 2011 – Top 100.  5 out of 12 pickers in selecting the top leader of 2011 on the Washington Post.




Use Your Gifts

This inspiring guest post is from Heather Stubbs who puts her work and life experience as a stage and concert performer to good use today as a speaker and presentation skills trainer. Here Heather describes some recent work she has done with disabled young women…what a joyful story of hope and helping!

Most people perform everyday tasks with barely a second thought. For people living with an intellectual disability, tasks such as cleaning, shopping, cooking and using a public transportation system are serious challenges. Community Living is an organization that teaches people with intellectual disabilities to meet these challenges, helping them integrate into the larger community and achieve a level of independence.

The Peterborough, Ontario, branch of Community Living plans to raise its profile and educate the public about its work. Knowing that good speaking skills are vital for getting a message across, the administrators engaged me to help prepare their “Ambassadors” for the upcoming presentations. I will spend an hour and a half with each of two very different groups over four Thursdays. The speakers will include not only the members of Community Living Peterborough’s Ambassadors (staff and Members), but also the self-advocate leaders of the “Young Women’s Group.” These are women, mostly in their twenties, with varying degrees and types of intellectual disabilities. I fell in love with them from the first moment!

Several outstanding qualities showed immediately in everyone in the group. Without exception, every woman was utterly herself. Some are shy, some are outgoing, but, unlike people with greater intellectual capacity, who sometimes try to project an image of how they want to be seen, these women are not trying to be anything but who they genuinely are. How refreshing to know that the person you are talking to is the one who’s really there! It’s lovely to watch how consistently good natured and supportive of one another these special women are. They know they all face the same challenges, and they understand the value of encouragement. Would that we all had such understanding!

Our first session centred on standing with good posture and looking people in the eye. Making direct eye contact is noticeably difficult for most people with intellectual disabilities. We worked in two groups of four, and each participant met eyes with one other member of her group and said, “Hello, my name is So-and-so.” With no input from me, the women expanded their statements to include telling something they liked. Graduating from the small groups to the full group, we did some pretending. “What would your face and body look like if you felt really sure of yourself speaking to the group? Would you smile?” Most of the women discovered they could stand tall in front of the group, smile and say their name and something they liked.

This was new territory for these people. Even though they had never done anything like this before, they were willing to expand their vision of what they were capable of. Most of them were able to gather their courage and explore the new skill of speaking to a group. Please bear in mind that some of these women have difficulty forming words at all!

For me, focusing on giving enjoyment to the audience instead of getting their approval was a huge factor in eliminating the fear of being onstage. For my second session with the Women’s Group, I wanted to go further in building their self-confidence, so I got them doing role play. The idea of giving to an audience was a bit too abstract at first, so they worked in pairs, pretending to give each other an actual gift. I emphasized that when they speak to an audience what they give is their friendliness.

The women have a tremendous sense of fun, and there was a good deal of laughing and horsing around during this session. The fun worked its magic, though. In the first session, two women were so shy they could not say their name in front of the whole group, although these were all friends they knew well. Even with encouragement, they simply would not do it. This time, one of them stood up, said her name, and said that she spoke for Community Living and the Status of Women Canada, and that Community Living helped her meet everyday challenges. The other needed the support of a friend standing beside her, but she did speak to the whole group. Not only that, but both of them enjoyed the experience so much, they each did it two more times, faces beaming, and speaking more firmly and clearly each time.

Truly, these are miracles! I feel honoured to have been present for them. We have two more sessions to go. I’m enjoying working with both groups, but it’s the members of the “Women’s Group” who fill me with joy. How thrilling it is to see their willingness to stretch themselves and explore new experiences! Their courage and openness stand as inspiration to those of us blessed with full capacities. Let us, like them, use fully whatever gifts we have been given.



Dealing with the idea stealing, credit-taking boss

Art from Winking Cat Comics

Claire looked pale and drawn as she slid into the lunch booth, joining her work colleagues for their weekly Friday “lunch bunch.”

“Hey Claire, what’s up?” asked Patsy. “You’re not looking so good.”

“Patsy, I’m pretty freaked out. Remember that big project proposal report I did? The one about the new product line I was proposing? The one I was wondering about because my boss never mentioned it again after I turned it in? Now I know.”

Claire slid several clipped pages across the table.  The top document was an email from the CEO of the organization to Claire’s boss, congratulating him on such an innovative idea and well-thought plan of execution that would drive significant revenue to the bottom line. There was even mention of a big promotion for him. The next page was the email from Claire’s boss to the CEO that introduced him to the product concept and the report. This was the page that had floored Claire. In the email, her boss claimed all the credit for the new product idea, using phrases like ”I thought of…I wondered….I talked to…I explored…I,I,I.” The only mention of Claire was a brief comment about  her “administrative” contribution.

Given that many of us have probably experienced something similar, let’s agree Claire’s boss is guilty of ego-overload and certainly isn’t walking the leadership talk. So what’s Claire to do?

3 ways to handle the boss who steals your ideas

1) Get your attitude under control. Treating your boss like crap might sound appealing as a way to get even, but unfortunately you’re the one who will pay (and not in a good way) with this approach. This is where you suck it up, continue to produce excellent work, and generate even more ideas.

2) Avoid the showdown and back-stabbing chatter. The reputation of being an “idea stealer” usually spreads pretty fast via water cooler chats and the office grapevine. Stay above the fray by keeping your cool and behaving professionally. If/when the project does move forward. of course the boss assigns you to the work so you have the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise to the organization.

3) Be smarter next time. Involve others within the organization as you begin your next new idea. Interview department heads and other key stakeholders/players as your work is unfolding. Create ”quiet visibility” around your proposal as you pull others toward and into your work. Use a variety of mechanisms to spread the word, like asking people to read your report and comment on it.

Taking the high road is your surest bet. What say you?


Leadership Friday Favs 9.9.11

Setting Employees Free To Do Good (Nicole Skibola, Forbes)

“The next time you’re thinking about ways to engage your workers, think about the intersection between your business growth and your community and give your employees the chance to shine.” My last corporate America employer had an employee volunteer day. Tens of thousands of employees donated their time and love on a given day. The givers and the getters all ended the day feeling like they had made a difference.

Lost Dignity at Work (Jeremy C. Garlington, The Garlington Report)

If you’re an employer who has established currently having a job as a requirement for hiring, read this post and reflect whether or not you’re living up to that lofty mission statement your organization probably has been doing good. “It would serve large employers and their leaders well to evaluate whether the value called the dignity of work still exists in their workplace.”

The Real Definition of Success (Paul Castain)

The Get Your BIG On team loves pithy posts. Ones that stop you dead in mid-coffee sip. Ones that prompt self-reflection. Paul’s post on the meaning of success does just that…and throws in a “triple dog dare” just for good measure.

How Leaders Turn Screw-ups into Learning Opportunities (Mike Figliuolo)

Effective leaders intent on developing the talents of their team take advantage of teachable moments. Mike recounts several incidents from his military career in which mistakes became the catalyst for learning rather a mark of failure. “As a leader, the most important part is your reaction to these events. Those reactions are what end up defining you in the eyes of your team.”

An Introvert Tackles Political Leadership Camp (Ashley-Nicole Weatherington, WE-News)

What a great story of personal development! A shy young women, fearful of public speaking, steps into her power and expands her comfort zone by completing a six-day political leadership program. Well-done, Ashley-Nicole!

Quote of the week. Here’s a really good one to chew on! “Practical life teaches us that people may differ and that both may be wrong: it also teaches us that people may differ and both be right. Anchor yourself fast in the latter faith, or the former will sweep your heart away.” ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


Leading Yourself

A reader shared this poem by Dale Wimbrow. It was written in 1934, yet the message remains fresh and true today.



When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf*,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.

* means wealth


Techniques for building your confidence

Today’s guest post is from Hillary Hutchinson, M.A., M.Ed. Hillary is a certified career coach who helps people manage major life and work transitions. She believes in being happy, helping people create strategic roadmaps to a fulfilling career, and has a specialty in academia. You can contact her via her website.

Why is it that so many of us doubt our own abilities? Until you own your excellence, you will continue to doubt yourself and perhaps stop yourself from taking on new challenges that you most certainly could accomplish. If you are always afraid of saying something stupid or doing something stupid, you might not even be willing to try new things.

Confidence is something that can be learned. Becoming more confident can make you more successful. Success breeds success, adding to your sense of confidence. This creates a powerful, inextricably linked cycle of success, confidence, success.

Confidence comes from real, solid achievements, which no one can take from you. This is not the same as self-esteem, which may be built on nothing more solid than nice words said to you. Solid achievements are built upon a “can do” mindset, then actually doing. Envision success. In other words, say to yourself each time a new opportunity arises, “I can do this,” let go of any negative thoughts about failing, and do it.

One way to get in a positive mindset is to look back on your life and identify past achievements. It doesn’t have to be job related:

  • Did you successfully raise children?
  • Volunteer to chair a committee at school or at church?
  • Buy a house on a shoestring?
  • Learn to play an instrument for fun?
  • Come up with a solution to a scheduling problem?
  • Join an adult soccer team?

Every one of these things is an accomplishment. Your achievements don’t have to be life-altering. Even small achievements are achievements.

Here are some tips on how you can work on building your confidence:

1. Get yourself a notebook and create an “Achievement Log.” You can do this today. Start your log by identifying at least 10 things you have accomplished in your life so far. Here are some more suggestions: Think about the tests you have passed, the times where you did something that made a difference in someone else’s life, or any tasks or projects you completed. Once you get started, you might find it hard to stop at 10!

Put your Achievement Log somewhere you can look at it often. Commit to looking at your list of achievements each week, reminding yourself of the success you have already experienced. Sit up straight while reading and your posture will send your brain success messages, too. The log can be a reminder of what you are capable of and what is yet to come. You can celebrate what you accomplished in the past week and grow your list of successes by adding new ones. Tip: If you are feeling down, re-reading the log can be a great way to lift your spirits.

2. Think about the personal strengths you have exhibited in your accomplishments. If it’s difficult for you to look at yourself objectively and recognize your strengths, try placing yourself in the shoes of a friend or family member. What strengths would these people see in you? What would they consider your talents to be? As you identify your strengths, make sure you take the time to really acknowledge them. Is it easy for you to be organized while people around you remain scattered? This is a natural strength. Enjoy a few minutes of being proud and reflecting on your talents.

3. Think about the things that are really important to you, and what you want to achieve in every area of your life: Work, personal, social, health and fitness, and anything else that is important to you. Make sure you add some deadlines to keep yourself on track. Setting and achieving goals is a key part of building and sustaining confidence.

When you have set your goals, fear, doubt and uncertainty may rear their ugly heads. At this stage, you need to manage your mind. Learn to recognize any negative self-talk and replace it with confidence-building talk, such as “I have already achieved much, and I can do more.” “I can use my knowledge to help myself, my colleagues and my family.” Make a clear and unequivocal promise in your mind that you are absolutely committed to achieving your goals, and that it is in your power to do so.

Building your confidence is a process. Applying these principles will help your sense of confidence to grow, and then your success will follow.







Leadership Friday Favs 7.29.11

Five People You Need On Your Personal Board of Directors (Tina Vasquez for The Glass Hammer)

If you’re a woman interested in making professional connections for career advancement, there’s some good advice in this article. Rather than wait for a mentor or sponsor, be proactive and create your own board of directors. Tina offers suggestions for five roles for the individuals you select for your board. This composition provides a variety of feedback which “leads to diversity of thought and in most cases, better results.”

Who’s Got the Monkey? (HBR Classic by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass)

Struggling with a ‘to do’ list that gets longer every time one of your direct reports pops into your office? If your employees are delegating their issues upward to you, this will be a great read (or re-read!). HBR re-released it in the late ’90′s, and it totally resonated with the leadership team where I was working at the time. To help us manage what the authors call “subordinate-managed time,” we all purchased the barrel of monkeys toy, using it as a visual symbol to track who was giving the monkey to whom!

Cultivating Goodness (Mary Jo Asmus, Aspire Collaborative Services)

Here at Braithwaite and Get Your BIG On, we’re big supporters of goodness, kindness and making a sustainable positive difference. We applaud Mary Jo for creating a thoughtful list of things leaders can/should do to serve the greater good. “When you put goodness out there, it comes back to you. Make an impact and watch goodness ripple throughout your organization.”

Why Airplanes are a Productivity Haven For Me (Kevin Eikenberry on Leadership and Learning)

Kevin’s post made us chuckle. We share his view that airplanes are a haven for unplugged productivity. Kevin’s key point to add to your toolkit is finding your haven - a place to think and renew. “It’s about making (not finding) the time and place to do your most important work.”

Whack Pack: The best brainstorming tool for the iPad

I’m a big fan of Roger von Oech’s Whack Pack. It’s a great tool for introducing creativity concepts to leaders and for brainstorming. Now it’s available as an app. This article provides suggestions on how to use the tool via an iPad…ingenious! (And now all I have to do is get an iPad!)

This quote stopped us in our tracks this week: “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.” ~Nietzsche


Leadership Friday Favs 7.15.11

What you see is what you get vs tact (Colin Gautrey on The Gautrey Group)

This is a short post, albeit one with a big message. If you pride yourself on wearing your heart on your sleeve yet have received feedback that you need to improve your ways, chew on the good advice Colin dispenses. People “jump to the conclusion…that they are being asked to cover up what they are really thinking. This starts to create an internal stress and a rejection of the need to change…”

Diagnose and Eliminate Workplace Bullying (Baron Christopher Hanson on HBR Blog Network)

In this spot-on post, Baron encourages leaders to face bullying head on…and to take thorough, thoughtful action. He offers up an acronym - CAPE - to guide the process. If you suspect abusive behavior is occurring, take Baron’s advice that “…bullying has no place in any workplace. Honorable opponents shake hands and even applaud each other at the end of the day. Leaders owe it to the people on their team to Confront, Analyze, Present, and Expose bullies fully.”

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

Interested in learning more about authentic leadership - what it is, how it’s different and how to practice it? This 2005 report is from the inaugural summit on the topic as hosted by the Gallup Leadership Institute. There’s some fascinating reading here, and the links and references are a treasure trove of information.

The Changing Face of Leadership Development (Frank Waltmann for Chief Learning Officer)

CEO’s everywhere should read this piece, then seriously reflect on their leadership development program content as well as their performance management programs, succession planning and on and on. “‘The financial crisis raised some tough questions for leadership development,” said David Dotlich, co-author of Leading in Times of Crisis: Navigating Through Complexity, Diversity and Uncertainty to Save Your Business. “Should we teach just what the CEO wants the leaders to learn or does it need to be broader? Leadership development’s aim must be to mold leaders to think and act independently as opposed to just training to a company’s competency model.’”

A great thought to noodle: “You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children,that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.” ~Chief Seattle (1784-1866) of the Duwamish, Suquamish, and allied Native American tribes, in an 1854 letter to President Franklin Pierce


The 7 C’s – A Mid-Year Leadership Checkup

Wow, it’s amazing that half a year has whizzed by!  Now is a great time for leaders to look back over those six months with a mini-assessment for lessons learned and wisdom gained. Then, take your insights and put them to good use in the second half of the year, focusing on using your head to manage and your head to lead.

The 7 C’s



Have I established my goals, both what I want to do and what I want to be?
Am I aware of my strengths, and do I put them to good use?
Am I tuned in to how I come across to others take that into account in how I interact and communicate with them?
Have I identified my purpose and passions?    
Do I take and make the time to fuel my purpose and passions in my daily living, either in doses large or small?
Do I make it a priority to make the time to connect with others so I understand their point of view?
Do I regularly engage in two-way dialogue?    
Do I share freely what I know to keep others in the loop?
Do I actively listen with my both my head and heart to what others have to say?
Do I stretch myself to the limits of my potential?    
Do I inspire those around me to do the same?    
Do I practice tough empathy on myself and those around me?    
Do I regularly smile and laugh and have fun both at work and at play?
Do I frequently recognize the accomplishments and contributions of others?
Have I mastered how much control I give to my inner critic?    
Have I learned to constructively work with ambiguity?
Do I give myself, and those around me, permission to learn through failing?
Have I chosen to be a person of integrity, never afraid to be found out?    
Do I treat those without power with the same respect I accord to the powerful?    
Do take the stand for what’s good and what’s right, even if doing so is unpopular?
Have I dedicated myself to finding connection, communicating, reaching for my potential, celebrating, and being courageous, sincere, caring and authentic?    

Which one will you feed?

Some simple wisdom from The Impeccable Warrior of Light, p16, by Peace Mother Geeta Sacred Song to start your week.

An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life.

He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil – he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

They though about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The Elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”