Weekly Leadership Reading

Our weekly leadership favorites are an eclectic collection of articles, blog posts, quotes, pod casts, books 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! Lead BIG!

leadbig10 New Leadership Skills. Plus, What Stays the Same? (Center for Creative Leadership)

To survive, lead and create the future, futurist Bob Johansen argues that leaders must build and apply 10 new skills in the just-released updated edition of Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World.

10 principles to guide 21st-century communications (Miri McDonald, SmartBlog on Leadership)

David Grossman shares his top 10 principles for communicators so they can develop authentic communications that engage employees and build reputation.

The Leader’s Five-Question Heart Check (John Bernard, Now Management System)

The BIG team believes every spreadsheet needs to have a heartbeat, and John offers up five insightful questions for self-reflection…so you can determine how much heart you’re bringing to your leadership.

Leading Yourself Out of the Victim Role (Mary Jo Asmus, Aspire CS)

If you’re caught, trapped or even wallowing in self-pity and feeling like you’ve fallen prey to everyone’s plots and schemes, you’ll benefit from the advice Mary Jo offers.

Why CEOs Are Abandoning ‘Command-and-Control’ (Alexandra Levit, Open Forum)

Some interesting research cited here reveals that “CEOs are changing the nature of work by adding a powerful dose of openness, transparency and employee empowerment to the command-and-control ethos that has characterized the modern corporation for more than a century.” Progress!

A pathway to something better. “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~Richard Buckminster Fuller



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!



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?



BIG Lessons from “Aunt Polly”

I’d grown up seeing my dad work hard. He was a man’s man, a successful manager, and no stranger to long hours. As a small child, I remember balmy summer evenings when my mom, little sis and I would sit in chairs on the front lawn, watching the stars and waiting for Dad’s car to pull into the driveway.

As the oldest of three daughters, I’d become the de facto son and opted for a career in management to follow in his beloved footsteps. Dad prized my early achievements, telling me, “If you put your heart and mind to it, you can do anything a man can do – and do it even better.” I took his advice to heart and got to live my dream of being a vice president for 15 years.

Then one day after yet another merger, a new boss unwittingly set the wheels in motion for changing my life when he described me as “Aunt Polly” to the new firm’s CEO. My boss didn’t mention all the impossible assignments and projects I’d delivered ahead of time and below budget,  just “Aunt Polly.”

Astonished, I asked him what he meant. His answer? I was a soft, round woman who inspired people. Egads! The acquiring company was male dominated, and I had been introduced to them not as an accomplished business woman but as Aunt Polly, soft, round and inspiring. Don’t see those metrics on business scorecards. Feeling compelled to prove my abilities, I worked even more hours and made sure the work of my department was brilliant, on point and above reproach. Let’s show those fellas what ole Aunt Polly can do.

Aunt Polly was a cosmic two-by-four with a powerful whack, forcing me to re-evaluate my thoughts on power, success and making a difference. Sure, by corporate standards I had made a difference. However, in terms of making a meaningful impact on someone’s life, rather than just making the bottom line better, had I really made a difference? That was the question Aunt Polly kept whispering.

To my delight, I was selected to participate in a prestigious national leadership program for female telecommunication executives. I was one of twenty-four powerhouse women participating in a year-long curriculum where we would learn how to increase our business prowess, build workplace political savvy, and deal with paradigms. We would also create a personal vision for our long-term accomplishments by taking the business elements of strategy and process improvement and applying them to our personal and professional development.

Wearing my business woman hat, I approved this logical and results-oriented approach to mapping out where we wanted our lives and careers to go. But when I put on the Aunt Polly hat and viewed the vision work from the perspective of one who had wanted to make a positive difference, the process wasn’t quite so straight forward.  That year was a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual roller coaster ride for me I as pondered success, power and my place in the business world.

Three years after his remark, I finally understood why Scott’s Aunt Polly description had been so unsettling. Because I didn’t fully understand power at the time of his remark, his portrayal upset me because it sounded weak and powerless. He had described me as feminine, someone who takes care of others, when I had thought of myself as one of the guys – a bold over-achiever who took charge and made results happen. That’s when I realized I had misinterpreted Dad’s words. He had said I could be better than a man, he didn’t say I had to act and think like one. He had wanted me to feel confident I could do my best. Instead, I thought power was beating the guys at their own game, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.