Sparking a leadership revolution

A new book, The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution… One Person at a Time was written by 21 members of the Lead Change Group: a virtual community of authors, business owners, thought leaders, and academics who share a passion for leadership.

Character-based leaders lead from the power of who they are, rather than from their position of authority or designated job title. People who lead with character don’t wait for others to make something right. When they see a need, they move to close the gap. The book combines current leadership thought with personal stories, providing compelling messages, tools and insights for those seeking to enrich their own leadership style.

6 thoughts on sparking a character based leadership revolution Continue reading


Leadership is a Tough Gig

Today’s guest author is Jennifer V. Miller. Jennifer, a member of the Lead Change Group, is the Founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource, an organizational development consultancy that specializes in leadership development, teambuilding and sales relationship management.

Leadership is a tough gig.

I’m not talking about being in “management”, although that is a really tough job, too.

What I mean is leading - stepping up, making the difficult calls, doing the right thing even when nobody’s looking.

Are you a leader?

Even if you don’t have an official leadership title, I bet you’ve been called to lead as a parent, a volunteer, a mentor or a project manager.

If you wear any of these hats, no doubt you’ve been confronted with the realization at some point in our lives, we all lead. Continue reading


Weekly leadership reading

Nuggets of wisdom, leadership information and I-never-knew-that-stuff that appealed to the BIG team this past week…lead big and enjoy!

The limits of what we can measure (Christina Robertson on The New Existentialists)

Numbers are important, no doubt, yet we have to remember they tell only part of the story. The team at BIG agrees with Christina that it’s “our use of metrics that can get us into trouble.” Continue reading


Be authentically real but not rude

I’m guest posting over at the Lead Change Group…a place where you’ll regularly find lots of good insights, especially into character-based leadership and beginning a leadership revolution.

Gene was upset with his new team’s quarterly business results, and his withering criticism of their performance during the staff meeting had brought a stunned hush to the room. Not one of the ten people sitting around the table had been exempt from having their deficiencies cruelly described and even mocked during the meeting. As he strode from the room, Gene mentally congratulated himself for telling it like it was. He prided himself on being authentic.

Have you ever worked for a boss like Gene? One who confused realness with rudeness?

The word authenticity has its roots in the Greek philosophy of to thine own self be true, and is one of the hallmarks of good leadership. Gene’s behaviors went awry, however, because he failed to consider that truly authentic leaders are “aware of the context in which they operate” (Avolio, Luthans and Walumbwa, 2004) because “authenticity is a quality that others must attribute to you” (Goffee and Jones, 2005).

Authenticity, like leadership, is relational. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It begins with you, requiring self-awareness, self-regulation and self-discipline. Under the guise of being genuine, one shouldn’t blurt out those first unfiltered thoughts. Transparency can come with tact.

3 rules of the road for leaders to be authentically real without being rude

Be candid without being insensitive. Providing forthright feedback is critical for career development, yet one doesn’t have to shred another’s self-confidence when doing so. While you may think what someone did was stupid and laughable, using those words only makes others defensive. When they become defensive, they close off, thinking you’re a jerk rather than focusing on what they need to change. Authentic leaders speak their truth yet deliver constructive, concise and compassionate feedback that leaves self-respect intact.

Have a strong opinion without being judgmental and unyielding. Nowhere is it written that others must perpetually agree with your point of view. Others seeing things differently than you do doesn’t make them wrong. Before you categorize someone as being difficult, determine if they might not be thinking the same about you. Authentic character-based leaders accept differing positions with positive unconditional regard, practicing Ben Zander’s Art of Possibility Rule #6: don’t take yourself so seriously. They don’t use authenticity as a mask for rigidity.

Be true to your nature while keeping possibilities open. We all have a default setting where we feel most comfortable. Yet using that “take me as I am” mindset limits creativity, innovation and communication; plus it breeds arrogance, fosters stereotypes and perpetuates biases. Many options were open to Gene for sharing his performance concerns with his team without publicly belittling them. Tactfully voicing his disappointment, expressing his desire for better results, and inviting input would have yielded a more productive outcome. Authentic character-based leaders look for new solutions that still align with their values.

Layering in thoughtfulness when dealing with others doesn’t make one inauthentic. Rather, it shows strength of character and demonstrates real self-control in leading yourself so you can lead others.

What say you?





Photography: Light and Shadow by Fan Ho



Weekly Leadership Reading

These articles resonated with the Get Your BIG On LeadBIG team this past week…enjoy!

You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Be A Leader (Don Shapiro, Lead Change Group Blog)

We like Don’s counsel that draws from lessons to be learned from sports leaders: “You don’t have to be perfect to be a leader…just have your heart in the right place and do enough things right to make a difference to those you lead.”

Every Leader’s Achilles Heel (Lisa Petrilli, C-Level Strategies)

“In other words, you can have every attribute you need to be a strong, distinguished leader but a lack of clarity is the single vulnerability that destines you to ruination.” Lisa offers three insights for how to create clarity of purpose.

A silent leadership killer (Mary Jo Asmus on SmartBrief for Leadership)

“Groupthink is powerful: a little unethical conduct here, a white lie there — justification is available for every integrity-compromised action. Suddenly, someone realizes something is wrong, and it’s too late; the momentum has built like a leaky faucet until a drip becomes a stream that turns into a flood, drowning employees, customers and those who trusted your leadership.”

None of us is as smart as all of us—take this quiz and see for yourself (David Witt on Blanchard LeaderChat)

Granted the Mensa quiz snagged our attention asap, yet the real insights come from the readout of using this quiz in development sessions. Is it all about me…or we?

Are You Brainwashed or Drinking Too Much Kool-Aid? Leadership Starts With You!(Todd Nielsen on A Slice of Leadership)

Ever wonder why you keep working at that place you hate? Todd offers up four psychological reasons for understanding why we may hang on, even to our detriment.

From the what’s-life-all-about-perspective: “Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, “Is life a multiple choice test or is it a true or false test?” …Then a voice comes to me out of the dark and says, “We hate to tell you this but life is a thousand word essay.” ~Charles M. Schulz

Lead BIG this week, using your head to manage and your heart to lead!



Weekly Leadership Reading

Because ongoing learning, exploring, and developing others are in our DNA here at Brraithwaite Innovation Group and Get Your BIG On, we are researching and reading all the time. These posts intrigued us and/or captured our imagination and/or pushed our comfort zones this past week. Here’s hoping they do the same for you…enjoy!

Are you making choices that matter? (Chery Gegelman, Lead Change Group Blog)

This one will get you thinking. Chery asks the $64,000 question:  ”Are we engaged and courageously challenging our own comfort zones for the good of those around us or are we sitting comfortably and watching the world go by?”

Six Extras that Build Power and Leadership (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business Review blog)

The team at BIG is big on helping people step up and into their power. Power gets a bum rap. People believe they don’t deserve to have it or don’t want any.  Others think it’s evil and self-serving. Power, in and of itself, is neutral. It only becomes good or bad depending upon how one chooses to use it. In this terrific post, Kanter highlights six building blocks for making power good:  being a good colleague, connecting people, being a giver, framing issues, commitment and diplomacy.

Do You Use Verbal White Space? (Steve Roesler, All Things Workplace)

Effective verbal communication skills are a must-have leadership toolkit item. Steve offers up great advice for phrasing your message to assure your meaning is communicated, and not lost in a sea of too many words.

Understanding Bias Is Essential to Inclusion (Mark Kaplan, Diversity Executive)

Ready for comfort zone discomfort? ”The debate about bias is over. Bias is a part of being human. The issue is no longer whether people are biased, but more about how to increase awareness of how bias impacts organizations and what can be done about it.”

Change, Patience, and Reinventing Ourselves (Debbe Kennedy, Women In the Lead)

The butterfly story from Greg Levoy’s Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life is included. It’s a splendid reminder of the power of patience and that sometimes the best help is no help.

Managers: Drive out fear—one thing you can do this week (David Witt, Blanchard LeaderChat)

Great guidance for not letting small things become big problems. What really stood out for us:  email is one-way communicating. Real managers make sure two-way communications occur.

Thoughts on success and humility. ”It is said that it is far more difficult to hold and maintain leadership that it is to attain it. Success is a ruthless competitor for it flatters and nourishes our weaknesses and lulls us into complacency. We bask in the sunshine of accomplishment and lose the spirit of humility which helps us visualize all the factors which have contributed to our success. We are apt to forget that we are only one of a team, that in unity there is strength and that we are strong only as long as each unit in our organization functions with precision.” ~Samuel Tilden

Use this week to help those on your team learn to use their heads to manage and their hearts to lead…success requires both!


3 incorrect notions about power

We’re guest posting over at the Lead Change Group blog today (a place where you’ll regularly find lots of good insights, especially into character-based leadership) so you’ll find this article there, too!

Like love, power is one of those words rarely uttered in the workplace.

And, when it is, those conversations happen in whispered tones, usually following a flagrant example of power gone wrong.

  • A CEO believing what leadership ethicist Terry Price defines as “something that’s wrong for others but OK for me.”
  • A newly promoted manager intoxicated with authority who bosses everyone about.
  • A quiet someone with a dissenting view who refrains from speaking up, believing they lack sufficient influence to affect outcomes.

Power gets a bad rap. It’s misunderstood or used improperly. Some say it corrupts. Others believe it to be evil and self-serving. Truth is, in and of itself, power is none of these things. It’s simply the neutral capacity to deploy resources to generate change and achieve results. It’s only in how one chooses to use, or not use, power that it becomes good or bad.

Looking back, no one ever taught me about power: what it was or how to use it effectively. No college class curriculum or leadership workshop addressed it. Bosses didn’t bring it up in performance reviews or staff meetings. As with many things that exist in the shadows, incorrect assumptions loom large.

3 incorrect notions about power

1) Because I am the boss, I am all powerful. It’s not quite true that absolute power corrupts absolutely. That only happens if you let it happen. Research shows that people who believe they have power become less compassionate, less connected, and see others as a means to an end. They view themselves as above the law and adopt an all wise mentality.

Rather than embrace such a kingly position, it’s best to remember that all work gets done by and through people, so staying connected and open to the input of others should remain high on a leader’s priority list. Resist the siren song of believing you’re above the law and better than others simply because you have a high responsibility, high authority position. Stay self-aware.

2) Because I’m not a boss, I don’t have any power. Au contraire! Just as one can be a leader even if one isn’t the leader, the same holds true for power. Power is readily available from a multitude of sources provided you have the courage and foresight to take it and use it.

You don’t have to sit in the corner office job or even supervise others to have power. Power can flow from your expertise, connections, access to information and strong interpersonal communication skills. Personal power is a state of mind in which you confidently believe in your own strength and competence. Character-based leaders walk the talk as defined by Rosabeth Moss Kanter when she writes “powerful leaders rely more on personal power than job title, or credentials, to mobilize their resources, inspire creativity, and instill confidence among subordinates.”

3) I don’t want power because it will corrupt me. Only if you let it. Formal and informal leaders influence others. Influence goes hand-in-hand with power (whether one wants to admit it or not). Shying away from any position or personal power leaves you powerless, without the ability to shape outcomes or make a positive difference.

“Power is required if one wants to get anything done in any large organization,” says Stanford University professor Jeffery Pfeffer. “Unfortunately, power doesn’t just fall into one’s lap: one will have to go after it and learn how to use it.” Positive use of personal power helps a business effectively realize its mission and goals.

Ready to get some positive power?!



Character, Credit and Leadership Credibility

Jane is guest posting over at the Lead Change blog today (where you’ll regularly find lots of good insights)!

Don’t you smile and feel good when accolades come your way? It’s incredibly gratifying to have your work be publicly acknowledged and praised. But what happens when you don’t deserve all the applause? When that “I” you used is really a “we?”

A small group of us had labored for months on a project to improve morale, performance and slowdown turnover in a particular facility. This assignment had been layered on top of already full task lists, yet it was a labor of love for most of the leadership project team. Who can resist the lure of freedom to create whatever is needed to mend something so tattered and broken?

Several months into the project, improvements in metrics first trickled in, then surged. Employees were smiling again. Recruiters were less frenzied. The project team was – as they say in corporate America – cautiously optimistic that our mix of solutions had generated the right alchemy for a turnaround.

Then came the company management meeting. The day when “I” slammed into “we.”

In his opening remarks, the president showered rave reviews on a woman from the project team, highlighting all her great efforts in turning around a troubled facility. He read the email she had sent to him. The email was full of “I” phrases: I discovered, I researched, I thought, I did, I, I, I. There was no mention of her other four team members. (Bad on the prez for not doing more research.)

Could this be you? Have you tooted your horn yet forgotten the orchestra that accompanied you?

Credit-Taking Rules for the Road

■Using “I” is appropriate when you’ve single-handedly done the work and the end result is stupendously good, not-so-good or just plain stinks.

■Remember that you’re not alone. First there were six, now four-and-a-half degrees of separation between us in a world becoming ever more connected. You just never know when you’re going to bump into and/or need that someone you once threw under the bus.

■Consider always having to work alone. No one wants to partner up with or even help a glory-grabber. What’s the point in signing on to be invisible?

■You don’t want to write a bad story about yourself. It doesn’t get any more powerful than word-of-mouth praise…or condemnation. You’re in the driver’s seat as to what people will say about you.

■Someday the “gotcha’s” will get you. When you least expect it, your boss or some other pooh-bah will ask you – in a very public venue – for details of “your” terrific work. That’s when your career path hits a dead-end, and you won’t hear the applause the orchestra gets for playing it’s about time.

Taking and sharing credit: it’s your choice, your story, your character and you’re in control.







3 tips for handling public criticism (from someone who wishes she’d done it better)

In my leadership book of fair play, one of the basic rules is to praise in public and criticize in private. I firmly believe that making people look — and feel — stupid (regardless how egregious, or not, their offense may be) in front of others serves no one well.

So imagine my shock and surprise to have a project partner level some hard-hitting criticism my way during a conference call with the project sponsor. We had co-authored a blog piece, passing it back and forth countless times as we edited and refined the content. Finally satisfied with our writing, we had scheduled the call. Just after exchanging pleasantries, my writing partner declares that I incorrectly entered a reference note, used the wrong dash mark, made a grammatical error in the second paragraph and then went on to explain in detail the error of my ways.

For me, it was one of those moments when the world slows down (like when you know you’re going to rear-end the vehicle in front of you) and images, thoughts and feelings collide in your heart and mind. Unfortunately, my anger – in its incredible hulk-like intensity – prevailed as these words tumbled out of my mouth in a most sarcastic tone, “Well, blah-blah name, thanks so much for correcting me…NOW!”

One of those epic awkward silent moments ensued. I can only imagine what the third-party on the call must have been thinking.

I’ve mentally replayed that moment several times. And my reaction is always the same: chagrin and regret that I didn’t take the high road and simply, and kindly, say “thank you.” I let my feelings of having been betrayed and unfairly one-upped win. A real personal leadership no-no.

Sadly the world is full of people ready to steam roll over you to increase their standing, so changing that is beyond your control. But, what you do control is your reaction when you’re unexpectedly and publicly criticized.

My three learnings and going-forward tips for handling public criticism

1) Be gracious in the moment. Responding as I did only resulted in two people — rather than one — rolling around in the mud. My grandma always reminded us that you get more flies with honey than vinegar. That old bromide will never be untrue. The vinegar pourers might get some momentary acclaim and/or notoriety, but take the high road. The spotlight may not shine as brightly there but you know you’ve done the right thing.

2) Don’t completely ignore the criticism, just take it off-line. Follow-up after the call, meeting or encounter to ask your criticizer for more details and feedback on how to do better in the future. Bring your honey, of course!

3) Be bold and make the ask. Your request for future criticism (constructive or otherwise) to be delivered privately might be ignored, but the important thing is that you stuck up for yourself.

Bringing civility back starts with me…and you…remembering and committing to taking the high road.




5 Not-Quite-Rocket-Science Ways to Build Leadership Trust

We’re guest posting over at the terrific Lead Change Group blog today, talking about five fairly simple ways leaders can build trust…

This statistic stopped me cold: 60% of the participants in a 2009 international study trusted a stranger more than they trusted their boss. Yikes, how sad.

In doing a quick mental tally of bosses I’ve had, unfortunately this figure didn’t seem too far off my experience. Many of those bosses didn’t grasp that in times of rapid change and uncertainty (which is the new normal for business) people turn to relationships and those whom they trust.

“The truth is that trust rules,” writes Pamela S. Shockley-Zalabak in Building High-trust Organizations. “Trust rules your personal credibility. Trust rules your ability to get things done. Trust rules your team’s cohesiveness. Trust rules your organization’s innovativeness and performance. Trust rules your brand image. Trust rules just about everything you do.”

5 elements for building personal trust

The handful of bosses from my past who “got it” about building personal trust had mastered these five elements:

Being a transparent communicator. They came, they listened and they spoke without hidden agendas or ulterior motives. They avoided making bite-you-in-the-butt-later remarks like “This is the last time we’ll have layoffs” or “This is the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

Practicing consistent consistency. There were no say-do gaps because they did what they said they were going to do. And they didn’t hesitate to be tactful in advising their team members of their shortcomings. Problems weren’t glossed over and/or ignored; they were resolved.

Defining clear roles, responsibilities and expectations. They made it clear what they expected you to do and how they generally wanted it done. You knew ahead of time how your performance would be measured. And they trusted you to take care of your job.

Applying equal consideration. These men and women lived out fairness and justice in how they allocated outcomes, dealt with processes and handled interpersonal treatment. There were no favorites or overblown platitudes like “This is the best work I’ve ever seen” or “You’re just the greatest.”

Being a character role model. Research tells us that perceptions of a leader’s characteristics, things like integrity, credibility and fairness, shape how employees will behave in the workplace. “…individuals who feel that their leader has, or will, demonstrate care and consideration will reciprocate this sentiment in the form of desired behaviors,” writes professor K.T. Dirks. Authentically walking the talk is important.

Is building, maintaining and restoring/repair trust high on your 2012 leadership to do list?