Category Archives: Leadership

10 Clues That You Aren’t a Leader

LeadershipI really know what makes you a leader. I’ve seen dozens of quotes and hundreds of articles, and I took a course on leadership in business school. But leadership depends so much on context and style that it’s hard to make any universal statements that aren’t just empty clichés.

What I do know, though, is that just wielding authority doesn’t make you a leader. Just having responsibility, or a title on your business card, doesn’t automatically make you a leader, either.

And also, I have a pretty good idea of what isn’t leadership. I learned that the hard way. And yes, since you insist on asking, I learned some of them by realizing that they applied to me.

I’m going to list 10 clues that show that you aren’t really a good leader. This is for people in authority. I’m talking to you. You are not really a leader if …

  1. Everybody always agrees with you. If you think that, get a clue. They don’t always agree with you. They are lying to you. And if so, it’s your fault, because you made them decide to pay you lip service with fake agreement.
  2. You talk more than you listen.
  3. Nobody who works for you owns anything by themselves. Ownership means owning a task, having responsibility, being empowered to operate, make decisions, and — yes — make mistakes.
  4. You do all the work. Because you don’t, really. If you think you do, then you’re not giving others enough credit. Or, if your people are really that bad, then change your team. You hired them.
  5. You correct people more than you applaud people. In the real world, performance seeks balance, like water seeks its level. If you correct way more than you praise, something’s wrong. And it’s probably you, not them.
  6. You take more credit than you give. There again, balance.
  7. Achievement in your group is something you bestow on people, rather than something they achieve themselves. Don’t make people work for praise. That’s ugly. Make them work for objective numbers that they can see, their peers can see, and you can see, at the same time.
  8. People pause to think, or guess, what you believe in. When you stand for something, and have values, people know it. It’s not just what you say, it’s what you do .
  9. You criticize more than collaborate. Don’t call yourself collaborative if people don’t want your help. Do they come to you? If not, you may not be as open to new ideas, or other people’s ideas, as you think.
  10. You don’t get bad news quickly. That means people are worrying about how to tell you. If people hide bad news or — worse still — spin it to look like good news, then get a clue. You’re not a leader.

And I want to conclude by emphasizing that last point, which is a clear case of last but not least, and perhaps even the first coming last.

Think about your leadership style in context of the flow of information, particularly bad news. If people wait to tell you, then you’re in trouble.

A leader wants the bad news instantly. Good news can wait. Bad news can’t.

(Note: this post first appeared as my monthly column for the Eugene Register Guard.)

Why All Business Has to be More Social

Are trends favoring social businesses over classic “greed is good” businesses? Is all business social business? Or, every day, more business is social? I think so. I hope so.Define_Social_Entrepreneurship

I first heard the term “social venture” in the late 1990s. Back then, social ventures were the odd exception to the norm, making money while making things better for their employees, their community and rest of the world. They sold devices to sanitize drinking water in the developing world for small profits. They sold technology to develop clean energy. They sold goods that protected the health of the less privileged in the developing world.

It’s been about two years since Harvard Business Review published “Every Business Is (or Should be) Social,” an article by Deborah Mills-Scofield. She wrote:

All businesses are social. All companies have people as customers, employees and suppliers. At some point in deciding which supplier to use, in engaging your workforce, and in getting your product into users’ hands, relationships with people matter. Improving their experiences always improves the outcome for your company.

It’s not just random change. It’s progress.

It’s not that people running businesses are more ethical or moral than they used to be. It’s because of changes in rewards and penalties for good or bad behavior. Social and technological changes are real factors.
The big change started with the Internet in the 1990s. Websites gave businesses a new and different way to reach the world. Before the World Wide Web, businesses had essentially only two ways to reach out to get people to know, like and trust them. They could pay for advertising. Or they could go through the media with public relations, events, articles, speaking opportunities and the like.

The second option depended on getting through gatekeepers: editors, event managers, producers and so forth. By the middle-to-late 1990s, businesses could generate their own website and online options to attract people and help them get to know, like and trust them.

Then came blogging. Millions of people started their own blogs. Experts established their expertise by writing and publishing blog posts and articles. The gatekeepers ceded power to the general public, the readers, search engines and the quality of content. Authors, consultants and assorted business experts established themselves independently of gatekeepers.

The finishing touch was social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social sites offered publishing for the masses, billions of opinions expressed as likes, follows and comments.

The result of these trends is what we call transparency.

In his book “The Age of the Customer,” small business advocate Jim Blasingame suggests that we’ve passed a tipping point. “You don’t control your brand,” he says, “your customers do.” And that is a shift in centuries of business reality, he adds.

And it’s because of the accumulated power of the customer as publisher in millions of tweets and updates.

Transparency means bad business behavior is more likely to result in damage to the brand. Big corporations still want to spin information toward their favor, but it’s more difficult to do.

United Airlines took a huge hit in brand image when a customer posted a video on YouTube complaining about treatment of a guitar. Clothing brand Kenneth Cole took a huge hit when its founder tweeted that riots in Cairo were caused by his firm’s new spring fashion line. When Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests, the world knew. When General Motors misplayed product recalls, the world knew.

Transparency also means that good business behavior matters more, too.

Markets care about business stories. A new local business is more effectively able to compete against big national brands because buyers know the local firm’s story and care about it. Clean energy businesses are finding buyers willing to pay more for renewable energy than fossil fuel energy. People pay more for healthy food than mass-produced food. People care about genetically modified foods, and local foods. Some customers prefer local coffee shops to Starbucks. Chain restaurants are less attractive to some than local restaurants.

As we look at business today and trends, shouldn’t all businesses be conscious of their impact on employees, customers, the environment, the economy and the world?

Isn’t it a sign of progress that when so many businesses have a social conscience that we drop the distinction between social business and just plain business? Shouldn’t good behavior be a business advantage?

I’m happy to report that I think it’s happening. Slowly and in stops and starts, progress is being made. All business should be social business.

(Note: republished with permission from my monthly column in the Eugene Register Guard Blue Chip magazine.) 

10 Ways to Tell You Are Not a Leader

  1. Everybody always agrees with you. Because they don’t. They’re lying to you. And it’s your fault they are, because you make them.
  2. You talk more than you listen.
  3. Nobody who works for you owns anything by themselves. And I mean ownership as owning a task, having responsibility, being empowered to operate, make decisions, and – yes – make mistakes.
  4. You do all the work. Because you don’t, really. If you think you do, then you’re not giving others enough credit.
  5. You correct people more than you applaud people.
  6. You take more credit than you give.
  7. Achievement in your group is something you bestow on people, rather than something they achieve themselves in the objective numbers they’re responsible for.
  8. It takes your people time to think when asked what ideas you stand for, or what you believe in.
  9. You don’t get bad news quickly. That means people are worrying about how to tell you. People hide bad news or, worse still, spin it to look like good news.
  10. You criticize more than you collaborate.

(Image: bigstockphoto.com)

Birds of a Feather Fail Together: the Business Case for Diversity

Diversity is good for business. Equal opportunity is not only morally and ethically right, it’s also a better way to run a business. Here are some reasons why, and points to consider.

What’s intuitively obvious

DiversityIt’s pretty much accepted wisdom that when people come together in a common business, it’s better for them to have different skills and experience that the same thing. You want somebody good at sales, somebody good at marketing, somebody who likes managing the money, somebody who can produce whatever it is you sell, right? That’s aside from gender, ethnic, religious, age diversity. The idea is commonly accepted.

Go from there to the obvious parallel with diversity of vision, background, outlook, and experience within a single business culture. Think for just a moment about the larger vision involved in branding and marketing, expansion, and growth. Which is more likely to produce new ideas, early alerts of changes, awareness of new markets and new products: the birds of a feather who flocked together, or a group that includes different people with different backgrounds and ideas?

A collection of studies

I caught The Business Case for Diversity on the business2community blog. Fascinating. Here are some highlights:

  • Diverse companies outperform non-diverse companies by 35%, according to a McKinsey study cited in that post.
  • Sociologist Cedric Herring found that companies with the highest levels of racial diversity had, on average, 15 times more sales revenue than those with the lowest levels of racial diversity. Herring found that for every percentage increase in the rate of racial or gender diversity, there was an increase in sales revenues of approximately 9 and 3 percent, respectively.
  • A study at the Kellogg School of Management6 found that diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones because the presence of group members unlike yourself causes you to think differently.
  • In a Catalyst report called The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards7, researchers found that Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors performed better financially than those with the lowest representation of women on their board of directors.

Diversity is good for business

The bottom line, for me, is the bottom line: diversity is not just the future, not just the way the western world is going, not just a natural result of trends and technology, and not just morally and ethically right. It’s also good business.

(Image: Flicker Creative Commons, by croptrust)

We’re Raising Girls to be Perfect, Boys to be Brave

Friday video, a TED talk, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani is out to change the way the world looks at girls, tech, and girls in tech. Her non-profit Girls Who Code inspires high school girls to study computer science.  She aims to enroll one million women in the program by 2020 — and tech has stepped in to help: Google and Twitter are backers, and engineers at Facebook, AT&T and others have signed on as mentors.  Here’s a quote:

Most girls are taught to avoid risk and failure. We’re taught to smile pretty, play it safe, get all A’s. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play rough, swing high, crawl to the top of the monkey bars and then just jump off headfirst. And by the time they’re adults, whether they’re negotiating a raise or even asking someone out on a date, they’re habituated to take risk after risk. They’re rewarded for it. It’s often said in Silicon Valley, no one even takes you seriously unless you’ve had two failed start-ups. In other words, we’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave.

For the original on the TED site: http://www.ted.com/talks/reshma_saujani_teach_girls_bravery_not_perfection

 

Entrepreneurship and Leadership with Mark Maples

My Friday video for this week is on entrepreneurship and leadership from the Stanford Ecorner. If you haven’t been there for a while, check it out. There is a new interface, and it’s a great collection of speakers on entrepreneurship, startups, business, and investment.

Here’s the intro from the site:

Silicon Valley veteran Mike Maples Jr. shares heartfelt advice urging aspiring entrepreneurs to “only do things that you think have a chance to be legendary.” By committing to always doing exceptional work and being around inspiring people, Maples says you will reap the cumulative benefits of a lifetime of excellence, and be able to enjoy it again whenever you look back.

This is a two-minute excerpt from a longer talk.

Infographic: Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

I confess I know nothing about the Norwich University online leadership program, but I like the infographic here. It’s got good information, worth sharing. I’m convinced that real leadership is a matter of context, and case-by-case situations; but listening, empathy, and vision are always important.


Norwich University’s Online Master of Science in Leadership Program

Great TED Talk: Gender Equality is Good for All

This TED talk is true, insightful, funny, and real. A great reminder to so many of us:

Privilege is invisible to those who enjoy it.

Please take a few minutes to watch and listen. As enticement, here are a couple of quotes:

  • “White men are the beneficiaries of the greatest affirmative action program in the history of the world. It is called: ‘The History of the World.’ “
  • “That by the way is why I think men so often wear ties … what could be a better signifier of disembodied western rationality than a garment that at one end is a noose, and the other end points to the genitals.”

1 Thing Coaching Kids Taught Me About Management

Most people do better with carrots than sticks. I just posted 3 best ways to reward people on your team over at Up and Running. As I wrote that, it reminded me of this. One thing I learned by coaching kids soccer.

coaching praising incentives motivation kids soccer flickr cc

Try this: To manage people in business, helping them to perform better, try emphasizing what they’re doing right, and celebrating that, instead of constantly criticizing what they’re doing wrong.

Of course you have to use common sense to make that work. Don’t go to extremes. People have to have real information about performance and problems. But seriously, are you repeating the bad news too often? And, if you are, is that working for you?

I had eight years of coaching little kids in soccer. Some kids were naturals and led the team and that was cool. But for those who weren’t so gifted, didn’t want to get the ball, or in some cases didn’t want to give the ball up, I learned to wait until they (even if it was accidentally) did the right thing. Then I’d shout that up to the skies. And, at the same time, I stopped steadily, constantly, repeatedly urging them to be more aggressive, or pass, or whatever.

With some kids it took patience, waiting for them to do the right thing. But it paid off big time when they did.

And I learned, running a business, that this basic principal applies to grownups as well as it does to little kids. Do you agree?

(photo credit: sean dreilinger via photopin cc)