8 Leadership Myths Dispelled | SmartBlogs

I had the pleasure of being invited recently to write a guest blog post on leadership for SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership.

I decided to share a bit about a recent experience I had, and to answer the question “what happens when you get 21 leaders together to work on a project?”

I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing just such a scenario over the past year, and the insights I’ve come away with defy certain myths about leaders.

Want to learn what they are? Check out the rest of the blog at 8 leadership myths dispelled | SmartBlogs.

Who Do You Give Back To?

I started following Dan Rockwell (@leadershipfreak) on April 30, 2010. I saw his Twitter ID listed among friends of mine from the Lead Change Group in a #ff tweet. After taking a look at his content, I knew he was someone I wanted to follow and learn from, and that others needed to hear what he had to share as well. So, I tweeted:

Leadershipfreak_tweet

Within the hour, Dan thanked me and let me know he was following me back. And so our conversation began…

That’s one thing that I love about using Twitter. Friendships develop, conversations ensue, and sometimes, just sometimes, our lives are touched.

When I first entered the Twitterverse, I did so on a whim with no real idea of what I was going to do with it. (This was during Ashton Kutcher’s competition with CNN Breaking News to see who could reach 1 million followers first, back in April 2009.) As a result, after creating my Twitter account, I didn’t do much of anything other than lurk and retweet. Then, as I was traveling to Tanzania as a missionary in June 2009, I thought it would be a great way of sharing my experiences while I was gone. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, that wasn’t possible.

It wasn’t until I returned home, and decided to spend some time figuring out the platform that I began making real connections on Twitter. First, there was Steve Keating (@leadtoday), whom I started following in January 2010. I was impressed with his bio, which said (and still does) that he’s not selling a thing on Twitter, only giving back. Then there were many others who followed. I found myself seeking out people who were positive, inspiring, uplifting, and had an “other” focus. We all need more givers than takers in our lives.

When I came across Dan, I recognized him as one of those people I wanted to surround myself with. But he opened my eyes to other possibilities for Twitter, which has since become my favorite social network, thanks to people like him.

Soon after we started following one another, he DM’d (direct messaged) me to say that he made a point of talking offline with the people he was meeting online, and would I be interested in talking by phone sometime? The online world of social media was still new to me, even though I was an eager student. But this was the first time I’d been part of what seems second nature now; taking an online connection and building an offline relationship.

While I was, at first, a little nervous during our phone call, it quickly became something easy and comfortable. I enjoyed learning about him, and sharing about myself. It was completely non-threatening and engaging, and I became fascinated with the potential of meeting new people who interested me. I live in a rural area of the country. As a single parent, I don’t get out much. So, being able to connect with people who share like beliefs, have similar interests and dreams, and who support and encourage one another is so very compelling to me.

Now, it’s my turn to give back to someone I care about, to support and encourage him where I can. Many of you may know that Dan was in a terrible car accident on November 20th. While it’s incredible that he survived it, what’s even more amazing is the grace, perseverance, gratitude and outward-focus he’s displayed this whole time. How many of us, at a time like this, would be tempted to slip into self-pity? Yet, Dan’s focus isn’t on himself, but on those he loves. He is a source of encouragement and inspiration to me, always.

One of the reasons I’m sharing about Dan today is because a source of anxiety for him is the medical bills that are anticipated to run around $30K in out-of-pocket expenses. This isn’t money he has just lying around. His work in the ministry and raising up leaders has been the treasure he’s stored up. To show our love and support for Dan, the Lead Change Group has been rallying around him to help raise funds to cover his expenses. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation, even if it’s only a few dollars. In 9 days, we’ve raised over $8,000 towards our goal, but there’s still a long way to go!

Take a minute, just one, and think about someone who inspires and encourages you. What lengths would you go to in order to help them? After you’ve done that, click on the image below, and give as generously as you feel led.

Time to Give Back to Dan


 

Book Review: “The Final Summit” by Andy Andrews

I first “discovered” Andy Andrews when he started following me on Twitter. (He’s @AndyAndrews.) Exploring his website led me to The Noticer Project, a nationwide movement to “notice” the five most influential people in your life. From that point onward, I was hooked on everything he did. I’ve since read all of his books, heard him speak in person, watched many of his videos, and always look forward to his next project. So, I was thrilled when his publisher, Thomas Nelson, gave me the opportunity to review his latest book.

The Final Summit book coverSo, let me ask you this… If you were able to travel through time meeting some of the greatest leaders throughout history, what would you hope to learn from them? In Andy’s book “The Traveler’s Gift,” the main character, David Ponder, gets just such an opportunity at the absolute lowest point in his life. Through the course of this New York Times bestseller, he meets King Solomon, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, Columbus, Anne Frank, Joshua Chamberlain and the archangel Gabriel to learn The Seven Decisions for Success that shaped their lives.

David then spends the next 28 years applying The Seven Decisions to his life and business, benefiting himself, his family, and countless other people around him. His success hit a snag at one point, only to rise to even greater heights as he embraces Truman’s lesson that “Adversity is preparation for greatness.”

In the sequel, “The Final Summit,” David Ponder’s world has once again been shaken. His beloved wife, Ellen, suddenly and unexpectedly dies in her sleep, and he’s at a complete and total loss without her.

It’s at this point that David learns that all of history’s Travelers are being gathered together for one last summit meeting that he is to lead, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Centuries of greed, pride and hate have sent mankind hurtling towards disaster, and far from its original purpose. The question is simple, “What does humanity need to do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?” The answer? Only two words… But can the greatest minds in all of history find the right ones?

Hal Sutton, the PGA champion, describes the book this way: “Is it possible to mix C.S. Lewis, Alfred Hitchcock and Tony Robbins? The Final Summit is a unique and powerful blend of mystery and suspense, and principles and emotional fire. Wow! Bring your highlighter to this party. You’ll want to remember every word!”

I couldn’t agree more! As with the first book, I learned fascinating bits of history and the roles that specific individuals played in affecting the outcomes. But I also was led to explore my own thoughts and feelings about the very same topics that the book’s characters were wrestling with. Are leaders perfect? When they fail, are they still a great leader? How can one seemingly minor choice influence the course of history? Can the wisdom of the past unlock the secrets of success today? Are my day-to-day actions really all that significant? Do I agree with the Summit’s final answer?

The book is an easy and enjoyable read. (I received it on Friday and was finished on Sunday, and I did do other things this weekend besides read.) But it’s the kind of book that you’ll want to refer to over and over again, and it can only serve to guide you in your efforts to become a better leader and individual. So, I highly recommend reading “The Traveler’s Gift,” “The Final Summit” and, for a little extra practice, “Mastering the Seven Decisions.” You won’t be disappointed!

Interested in reading “The Final Summit?” Thomas Nelson has been kind enough to provide me with an extra copy to give to one of my readers. Leave a comment below with your two-word answer to the question “What do you do when you don’t know what to do?” and why you think it’s the right thing to do. You’ll be entered into our drawing to receive a free copy of “The Final Summit!” (The drawing will be on June 7th.)

Want to learn more about Andy and his life-changing books? Follow him on Facebook or visit his website.

“In reading about the lives of great people, I found that the first great victory most of them won was over themselves.” ~ David Ponder

From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership

If you’ve read my blog before, you’re aware that most of my posts have to do with growing your business. Past posts have talked about how to get found online, making connections with others in person or using social media, and the challenges of being an effective solopreneur. Since I’m also a contributing author for the Lead Change Group’s blog, you’ll sometimes see cross-over pieces touching on character-based leadership here as well.

In today’s post, these worlds collide and the result is Remarkable, if I do say so myself! Whenever I get to write about my favorite subjects at once and read a great book, it’s a win-win situation!

Kevin Eikenberry, a member of the Lead Change community, is launching his latest book “From Bud to Boss” tomorrow, and a request for reviewers went out a couple of weeks ago. Many of us in the community are helping to #buildthebuzz about this book using our collective blogging and social media talents.

Even if I wasn’t enthralled with the way this book is being marketed (which I am), this book is definitely one I’d recommend. Kevin and his co-author, Guy Harris, have created an instruction manual that belongs in the hands of every new leader on the planet (and in the hands of some more experienced leaders too).

“From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership” is that missing handbook for first-time leaders that comes alongside them and gently teaches them the things they need to know. Broken into six parts, the book covers topics such as succeeding in your transition to leadership, the nature of change, working with various communication styles, providing effective feedback and coaching, transforming groups into teams, and developing a commitment to success.

Remarkable Principles within the book highlight key points that often say more about human nature and life in general than specifically about leadership. These principles are worth taking note of, and stopping and pondering for a time. Kevin and Guy recommend keeping a journal as you read through the book, and these principles are good stopping places to make notes and visualize their application to specific circumstances you are faced with in your leadership role.

Bonus Bytes point to practical and immediately useful extras that can be found online related to the current topic. These may include checklists, tools, greater detail on a subject and more. These resources, coupled with the information in the book, go a long way towards providing you with the tools and resources you need to succeed in your new role.

But the thing I liked the most in the format of the book was that each chapter ended with Now Steps. These were actionable items that you could go and do now to improve your leadership. They were just a summary of points from the chapter, but instead, where additional items that took the chapter’s content one step further; helping you ingrain the lesson in your heart and mind.

The entire premise of the book is that you can successfully transition into your new leadership role, but that your goal shouldn’t be simply to be a leader. Instead, as you focus on becoming a Remarkable leader, you surmount many of the problems that other leaders get bogged down by. As you focus on controlling what you can and influencing who you can, you keep a proper perspective, riding the middle of the wake between tasks and people. This analogy refers to the two-sided wake that a boat leaves behind it. As you move towards either side of the wake, the waters are rougher. However, staying in the middle of the wake allows you to effectively use both edges of the wake to create Remarkable results in your team and for your organization.

If any of this sounds like information you could benefit from, I strong suggest that you pick up a copy of “From Bud to Boss” and being your journey to Remarkable leadership today! Visit the launch site on February 15th, and get some great bonus materials along with your book!

The Essence of Self-Leadership: Start with the End in Mind

Tim with his Daisy Air Rifle

My 10-year-old son, Tim, has been passionate about the military and weapons of war for years. He’s grown up knowing that his aunt was serving in the Armed Forces, and taking every opportunity he could to learn things from her. He loves watching historical, military documentaries and sharing interesting details with me.

As he’s gotten older, he has become increasingly adamant about wanting a BB gun, specifically, a Crosman Stinger S32P Airsoft Tactical Carbine. However, I’m missing that chromosomal gene that thinks this all sounds neat. So, it’s been a bit of a battle in our household for years. Sounds a bit like “A Christmas Story,” doesn’t it? “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

About a year ago, his friend, Luke, got a BB gun and Tim got to shoot one for the first time. That fueled his fire further, and became part of his argumentation whenever I said “no.” “But Luke got one!”

In speaking to Luke’s mother, Laura, I learned that she too had been totally against the whole idea, but he had saved up the money himself and so she had allowed him to get it.

The next time Tim asked me about getting one and used the “Luke excuse,” I felt prepared. I told him about how Luke had bought it himself and then we researched prices for BB guns, pellets and safety glasses. I made it clear that there was no gun without the glasses, and we determined that the whole thing would cost around $50.

He was frustrated initially because he had no idea how he could earn that much money himself. I shared that other boys his age sometimes mow neighbors’ yards, or offer to rake in the fall, or trim hedges. To my way of thinking, everything was going according to plan. It’s summer vacation. He’s enjoyed a lazy summer. He’d actually have to work for it!

When he looked thoughtful and walked off, I thought “End of story!” But about an hour later, he came back in the room announcing that a neighbor had hired him to mow their lawn. Keep in mind, he had never mowed a lawn in his life, and didn’t know how to use our tractor or anything!

But he had his goal in mind, and he believed he was capable. He assessed what it was that he personally could do to reach his goal, mapped out a plan, began enacting the plan and identifying issues, consulted others, and adjusted the plan as necessary. While he needed my support and help in some of the things he was doing, I purposefully handled the situation with the viewpoint that it was his mowing business. I provided technical expertise (and parental supervision), but he did the work.

In the end, he didn’t end up with a Crosman Stinger S32P Airsoft Tactical Carbine. Not yet, at least. After 3 weeks’ time, he’s earned his $50, been given a working push mower by someone who wanted to get rid of it, and been given a beautiful old BB rifle by someone who was inspired by his dedication. That friend told him to “put is money in the bank” instead.

I’m inspired by my son’s self-leadership. He knew what he wanted to achieve and didn’t let seemingly insurmountable obstacles keep him from pursuing his goal. How often do we, as adults, give up before we even get going because something’s going to be “too much work,” or hold on to one outcome without being willing to adjust the goal? Mastery of self-leadership is a lifelong occupation, but I am so grateful to know that my son is off to a fantastic start!

Those Left Behind

Iwo 9-11As many of you may already know, my sister was deployed to Kuwait last year. She had originally signed up for military service after 9/11.  Living in a bedroom community of NYC, my family and I still clearly remember that day in 2001 and how helpless we all felt watching the same horrific images over and over again on the TV.

Not long after, my sister found her way of addressing that sense of helplessness and became the official property of the U.S. government.  With three years of active service behind her, she was ready to get back to her own life.  A couple of years later, the government had second thoughts.  They informed her days just before Christmas in 2008 that her services were required once more.  So, back into action she went; putting her life, career and future plans on hold so that you and I could appreciate the freedoms we each have and often risk taking for granted.

Just days after 9/11, we saw communities band together, strangers helping one another without fear or expectation of reward.  A Romanian reporter, Mr. Cornel Nistorescu, said it best in his “Ode to America:”

What on earth can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic Power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases with the risk of sounding commonplace.

I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion…

Only freedom can work such miracles.

True leadership means stepping up and doing what needs to be done when no one else is willing or able to do so.  It means focusing on the greater good, and sometimes taking on onerous tasks we would much rather avoid.  It means sacrificing our time, our talents and, sometimes, our lives.  When people are running out of burning building, true leaders run inside of it to bring out the last man.  If you are content with the “status quo,” don’t aspire to be a leader.  Leaders bring change and they make a difference.  There’s no room for the “status quo” there.

Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and ages.  Having seen an unmet need, the Bangor Troop Greeters, Bill Knight, Joan Gaudet, and Jerry Mundy transform their lives and the lives of others by greeting U.S. troops at a tiny airport in Maine.  On call 24/7 for the past 6 years, this group of senior citizens is showing true leadership by ensuring that every troop passing through the Bangor airport en route overseas or returning home receives a personal greeting, no matter what time of the day or night they are passing through.  To date, they have spoken with nearly one million soldiers, helping them along their way.  Just this past week, my sister had the pleasure of being greeted by Jerry as she returned home from overseas.  As with so many others, he gave her a friendly welcome, offered her a cell phone to call loved ones, and let her know how much her service was valued.  (For more information about the Bangor Troop Greeters, I highly recommend watching a documentary called “The Way We Get By.”)

A full year after she left to report for duty, my sister is home again.  We are delighted to have her back in our midst, and thankful for her time of service.  As Memorial Day approaches, take some time to think of the freedoms you enjoy here as an American citizen.  Whether you agree with the War on Terror or not, think of the sacrifices being made on your behalf so that you can have your own opinion and voice it freely.  Those sacrifices are being made by soldiers, their families, their friends, and their employers.  And those same sacrifices have been made time and time again throughout American history to ensure that we retain the freedoms we now have.  Rather than standing around the water cooler, complaining about the way things are in this country, these leaders have generously paid the way for us.  So, be sure to take a few minutes out to thank them.  Our soldiers and veterans deserve it!

Can Leadership Skills Be Taught?

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a leader?  Are leaders born, bred or brewed?  Does it take a certain personality style, environment, or natural talent to lead?  What’s led to the crisis of leadership that we see today?  I woke up early this morning pondering these questions.

I’d recently finished reading an eBook called “The LeadChange Revolution,” which documents the insights and commitments of a small group of people who attended a leadership unconference earlier this year, the Leader Palooza.  I found it inspiring, encouraging, and engaging.  But I was left with a big question burning in my mind…  Why are there so few character-based leaders out there?  In my decades spent in and around corporate America, the majority of the leaders I’ve encountered are driven by the bottom line; profits matter more than people, no matter what they say.

The Lead Change Group is dedicated to applying character-based leadership to make a difference.  They are committed to supporting one another and holding one another accountable.  They seek to inspire others to be better; to raise the bar a notch higher than they’d held it before.  When I read this section of the eBook, I have to admit, I thought immediately of a passage in Exodus 17, when the Amalekites attacked Israel at Rephidim.  While Joshua fought the battle, Moses watched over it with the staff of God in his hands.

11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Moses had led his people with character and strength, despite the fact that he was not a confident or charismatic man.  He was not born a leader.  He was thrust into that position.  He had to be taught (in this case, by God himself) how to lead.  Yet, he inspired the people around him and engaged them in his efforts.  Joshua fought for him, while Aaron and Hur supported him, literally!

Now, some individuals are born with the natural talents and abilities that make it easy for them to become leaders.  People naturally gravitate to them due to their out-going personalities, dynamic people skills, etc.  But does that mean the rest of us can’t be leaders?  Not at all!

As a martial artist, I watch children who are being taught character-based leadership skills, and I love being a part of it.  I purposefully participate in the “junior classes” for two reasons.  I can serve as a role model to show what’s expected of the kids in class; but more importantly, I get to help shape the way they view the world and interact with other people.  We teach them the skills they need to be the future generation of character-based leaders.

They learn respect for others and humility for themselves.  Senior belts (individuals with a higher rank) are shown respect by bowing to them and thanking them for their instruction.  They are addressed as “sir” or “ma’am” as appropriate, and the senior belts bow and respond in kind to show their own humility.  They know that they are no better than anyone else in the room.

They learn self-discipline by pushing their minds and bodies beyond the point where they are inclined to give up.  The kids are taught to value truth and honesty by not short-changing themselves or others.  100 jumping jacks are 100 jumping jacks; not 90 or 95.  Once you learn to obey authority, then you earn the right to exert it yourself; not before.

The perseverance this requires eventually instills a confidence that wasn’t there before.  They learn that they are capable of more than they imagined, just as we all are.  But they also learn that they’re not going to get everything right all the time, and that it’s alright to make mistakes.  Failure is an important part of the learning process, and they learn to embrace it rather than being ashamed of it.

They learn proper goal-setting, as they understand what’s required of them in order to advance to the next rank.  They learn to take large goals (earning a black belt) and break them down into smaller, more manageable milestones (advance to the next belt level) with distinct and specific actions (master the next technique).

They learn to recognize and deal with bullies so that they are prepared to face conflict in their lives.  One of our teacher’s favorite saying is that “bullies are people with problems,” and you’ll encounter them at every age and in every environment.  Even grown-ups face bullies sometimes in the form of unreasonable bosses, demanding clients, and irritable colleagues.  The kids learn techniques for disarming the situation, so that they are not brought down by the hostile actions of others.

Best of all, the kids sense that they are part of a close-knit community.  It doesn’t matter where they go, whenever they meet another martial artist there is an immediate and undeniable bond that exists.  The world no longer revolves around them.  They see and learn that they are part of a much larger whole that is happy to have them there.

In “The LeadChange Revolution,” Susan Mazza communicated the desire to be a “real” leader, and that she’d gained a new appreciation of what that meant.  Real leadership is Respectful, Ethical, Accountable and Loving, and it takes someone with strength of character to be a “real” leader.  But anyone is capable of becoming a character-based leader.  They’re not a special breed, set apart.  They are brewed in the coffee grounds of life, making choices and decisions that are infused with integrity, a desire to be more than they already are, and a passion to inspire others.  Are you ready to raise the bar?

Leadership Thoughts from “How to Train Your Dragon”

I had the pleasure today of going to the movies; one of my favorite luxuries.  Thankfully, I have children.  That means that I get to see any movie I want, without being embarrassed by being an adult alone in a “kid’s movie.”  This works well for me because I’ve found that most PG-13 movies are too much for me.  I much prefer the creativity and inventiveness found in many G and PG movies.  In the past 5 years, I’ve seen one R-rated film (on a flight home from a business trip), and I was frankly appalled, not only at its content, but the lack of creativity that inspired it.

So, what did I see today?  A PG-rated film called “How to Train Your Dragon.”  Would I recommend it?  You bet!!  Let me tell you why…

The story centers around a boy named “Hiccup,” who is drastically different from everyone around him, including his own family.  They are Vikings, who eat, sleep and breathe dragon-slaying.  Everyone in the village is big and brawny.  But Hiccup?  Not so much…  He wants to be like everyone else, but just doesn’t seem to have it in him.

During the course of the movie (without revealing too much detail), Hiccup befriends someone totally foreign to him. Much like the Good Samaritan of the New Testament, he chooses to help someone he’s been taught all of his life to fear and hate.  Not only does he go against the tradition of his people, but he does it at great cost to himself.  He comes to realize that the things he’s been taught all of his life have been based on misinformation.  People fought and died believing one thing, only for Hiccup (and us) to find out that they were wrong; they had misunderstood the motivation of their enemy for years.  With understanding, came trust, and with trust, came peace.

To bring his people to that place of understanding, Hiccup not only had to accept that he was different and stop trying to be like everyone else, but he had to embrace the things that made him different.  In accepting the strengths and weaknesses that were uniquely his, he was able to bridge gaps that enabled him to establish peace where there had been none before.

Change was just one of many things that scared Hiccup.  But, as with all great leaders, he recognized a need that he was clearly suited to fill.  So, he set aside his fear and did the things that needed doing.  This ultimately cost him his family, his village and his closest friend.  Yet, despite the personal sacrifice required, he stayed with it to the end.

As with Hiccup, leaders have no idea how things will turn out in the end.  They only know that the way is uncharted, and sometimes it’s scary.  (As one character in the movie comments, “pack extra undies.”)  We also must be willing and able to look at others, and value their diversity and commonality as well.  Hiccup tells a friend at one point in the movie “I looked at him, and saw myself.”

We are each uniquely suited to do specific things because of our individual differences.  So, what’s your difference?  Do you embrace it, or hide it?  To be a leader, you must recognize and embrace your difference; only then can people truly know who you are and what you’re capable of.   And you must value the unique traits in those who follow you; for only then can you accomplish great things, together…