All posts filed under: On Leadership

Special posts related to leaders and leadership

Boldness in Leadership

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Turbulent Times, is, as one would expect from the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, a thoughtful analysis that deserves to be taken seriously. At a time when the country has entered the public phase of Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry and as the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination—and perhaps the soul of the country—escalates during the twelve months before the 2020 election, there are lessons to be learned from the past. This 2018 work is a study of the life of four presidents and the ways in which they addressed major issues in fractured times: Abraham Lincoln (winning the war, ending slavery and saving the union); Theodore Roosevelt (responding to the sharp inequities and unfairness of the industrial revolution); Franklin D. Roosevelt (rebuilding a country out of the Great Depression); and Lyndon B. Johnson (the fight to ensure civil rights for all Americans). Kearns Goodwin observes that we have come through difficult periods before. In a more troubling sense, she also makes it clear that we have always had scoundrels in positions of …

Let’s Go 1-0 Today

Saturday’s rally to celebrate the Washington Nationals World Series Championship was—intended or not—a masters class in leadership and team building. The lessons were outlined by speaker after speaker from the stage, and they began with a facing of reality. Before he passed away in 2017, Max DePree was the retired CEO of the furniture and design pacesetter Herman Miller. Through the years I’ve come to appreciate his definition of leadership, and especially his thoughts on the responsibilities of leaders. DePree said that the first duty of a leader is to define reality. On May 24th, with almost a third of their season over, the Nationals record stood at 19-31. Twelve games under .500. Their chance of winning the World Series on that date was a miniscule 1.5%. From the outside, it appeared that the reality wasn’t good. But there were reasons—primarily but not exclusively a rash of injuries to key players—that led to the bad start, and the reality was that those injured players were beginning to return. It was also clear that some elements …

Connecting the Dots

Tunnel vision is defined as the tendency to focus exclusively on a single or limited goal or point of view. And that’s not always bad. There are certainly instances where a laser-like focus is required to get the job done. But more times than not, getting locked in on a single goal without considering the context, other points of view, or the broader consequences brings trouble. In leading teams both large and small, I often say that one of my key roles is “connecting the dots.” I’m trying to ensure that team members consider the context. It is critical for leaders to ensure that someone is thinking about broader consequences and the big picture. I saw an unfortunate example of tunnel vision play out over the past two weeks. The leaders and their teams did not connect the dots that were right in front of them. This real life lesson began when my wife and I walked the short distance from our house to a nearby intersection on a beautiful Monday morning. There we joined …

The Search for Wise Leaders

Is it possible to find wise leaders in this era dominated by 30-second soundbites, cable news demands for conflict, twitter-length pronouncements that take the place of rational discourse, and increasingly short — or nonexistent — attention spans? I began thinking anew about wisdom after hearing the Rev. Emily Griffin speak a few weeks ago on how those who are wise stay afloat in a figurative sea of rising waters. Those thoughts were carried forward in one new book that has been on my nightstand, along with another I’ve returned to in recent months. Both included perspectives on wisdom, insight, and discernment. Making the link between wisdom and leadership followed later as — with increasing frustration — I watched two nights of the Democratic presidential debates on CNN at the end of July. First, consider how we know that someone is wise. The writers I have been reading suggest that wisdom includes meaningful self-knowledge as well as an important outward-facing impact. Defining wisdom as “knowledge translated into action,” Emily struck a chord and helped begin my …

Discipline

An acquaintance who overcame addiction to remake her life once told me, “Discipline is remembering what you really want.” So much of what we accomplish comes back to having the discipline to achieve our goals. After years of giving in to dependency, my friend wanted to change her life in a way that aligned with her goals; with what she — when she was brutally honest with herself — really wanted from life.* As a different person than I was in my 20s or 40s, I’m now focusing on what I really want to accomplish in the years ahead. Discipline is hard and involves pain, no matter where you are in your life journey: in school, beginning a career, as a senior manager, building and growing a business, caring for others, living out a gap year, sailing along effortlessly, or fighting addiction. However, it has been said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” …

Create at the Intersection of Experience and Innovation

In the recently released documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, country music legend Dolly Parton comments that “Linda could literally sing everything.” The film soon cuts to Ronstadt — who famously sang folk, pop, rock, country, R&B, Cajun, operetta, the Great American Songbook and traditional Mexican music in a long and successful career — as she dryly remarks, “People would think I was trying to reinvent myself, but I never invented myself in the first place.” There is a great deal of wisdom in those few words. Today we hear about reinventing yourself for the information age. Creating your new personal brand. Unmooring yourself from your past to create a new you. Most of that reinvention messaging is…what’s the technical term again? Ah yes. Hogwash. The assumption that you need to jettison the past as if it never existed and doesn’t matter is central to the modern idea of reinvention. Many writers have commented that the American myth is built upon jettisoning the old in order to glorify the new. Similarly, the concept …

Don’t Create Followers, Create More Leaders

Management guru Tom Peters has said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” In the middle of a week full of simple yet sublime pleasures, I also had the opportunity to experience unexpected leadership lessons with long-time colleagues and friends. This story begins with The National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which has been a model for preservation and conservation organizations since its founding in 1895. While many National Trusts exist around the world, all are modeled in one way or the other on this original National Trust. I’ve worked with U.K. Trust staff members over the years and have come to count several as dear friends. The Trust’s work to connect people with places and the willingness to give back out of its century of experience to the international preservation and conservation communities have long been an inspiration. I spent time last week interacting with the National Trust at several levels. The long-time connections were also how we found ourselves in Cambridge last Monday, visiting with Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of …