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The Invisible Ebola Leader

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There are many different places to lead from and some leaders use them all. They may lead from the front, pulling their people towards success. Sometimes they simply step aside for a moment or two and allow a member of their team to lead. Sometimes they move all the way to the rear and push their people forward. One of the best places to lead from is the middle of the pack; it allows a leader to come alongside of their people and coach them through what might initially seem to be an insurmountable problem.

But wherever they chose to lead from this much is certain: effective leaders are always visible. Their presence is always felt. They are fully engaged, supportive, and at least moderately aware all aspects of their organization.

Which brings us to a person recently named to an important leadership position in the United States. The recently appointed Ebola “Czar.” I wonder if anybody reading this post knows the name of this individual. Could you pick this person out of a crowd? Do you know if it’s a man or a woman?

How about the statement this person, the United State’s “leader” in the fight against Ebola, has made regarding the quarantine debate currently raging in several states…. Oh wait, he (yes, it’s a man) hasn’t said a word.

He hasn’t been seen. He hasn’t said a word. He has been both silent and invisible.

Now it’s possible he’s doing a heck of a job behind the scenes, under the radar as they say. Maybe he is a logistical magician and has everything well in hand. But I doubt it.

I doubt it because whatever else a leader is they are not invisible. It’s just not possible to lead while never being seen and never being heard. It’s just not possible to lead while never staking out a position and making a case for why you believe what you believe.

I’ll not sure that I wouldn’t prefer a somewhat incompetent leader with a flawed case over an invisible leader with no case to make. One may make mistakes but the other IS a mistake.

The current quarantine issue is a perfect example of what happens when a “leader” attempts to dodge a contentious issue. Their “people” will all go their own way; with no one to follow it should come as no surprise that no one is following. Their “people” in this case happen to be Governors of several states who are now making up their own guidelines. They may be doing their best but they aren’t doing “the” best because “the best” requires actual leadership.

I don’t know why the new Ebola Czar has kept such a low profile but I do know this: If you’re a leader who believes you can avoid conflict by hiding then you may have a leadership position but you’re no leader.

Just so we’re clear, conflicts should not be confused with mere disagreements. A disagreement may, just may, resolve itself with time. A conflict will not.

Conflicts are infused with emotions because in a conflict people feel threatened. It could be that their self-esteem is threatened, their authority might be threatened in the case of a boss or a parent, or their sense of well-being could be threatened as is the case with Ebola.

Leaders, at least Authentic Servant Leaders, know that a conflict is not resolved until the threat is removed. So they engage in conflict resolution, not just engage but actively, courageously, engage. They are highly visible, they risk saying something wrong. They risk offending someone, they may even risk making the situation worse in the hope of resolving the conflict.

But they don’t hide. They never hide. They are not invisible!

Every leader would likely agree that the new Ebola Czar could be more visible. It’s always easy to see what the other person could do better. But here’s the question: are YOU as a leader visible enough?

We may not learn much from the czar about Ebola but we can certainly learn this from him about leadership: If you not going to be at least a little visible then maybe you don’t actually need to be there at all.

If your people can’t see you then your people can’t follow you. Make sure they can see you!

Are You an Inspirational Leader?

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Inspirational leaders don’t try to force their people to drink from the well of success; they inspire them to be thirsty.

Before anyone can achieve their full potential they must be inspired. Some people seem to inspire themselves, many however need someone to inspire them. That “someone” is most often a leader.

Authentic Servant Leaders know that inspiring others requires these specific, intentional action steps:

Inspiring leaders are a model of integrity. They do what they say they will, when they say they will do it. They apply the same rules for everyone yet are not afraid to make exceptions that are fair to all. They create trust at every opportunity. Inspiring leaders know that without integrity there can be no Authentic Leadership.

They set clear, specific, and attainable goals. They give their people a target and they help them reach it. They vision cast and include in the vision a benefit to their people; giving every member of the organization a reason to buy into the vision AND the leader.

To inspire their people these leaders seldom miss an opportunity to provide support and recognition to their people. They spread the recognition around and inspire their people to look past their own self-interests. They coach with a spirit of approval, not criticism and they make mistakes seem easy to correct.

They encourage their people to take well-measured risks. They help them see what’s possible, no matter how improbable it may be. Inspirational leaders don’t just tell the way, they show the way to success.

Inspirational leaders are not afraid of showing their emotions and they regularly stir the emotions of their people. They comfort their people in defeat and praise them in victory. They can show vulnerability and strength at the same time. The hallmark of their leadership is empathy and they are never far from their people’s feelings.

The most inspiring leaders help common people achieve uncommon results. They often see the potential of their people before anyone else, even the individual with the potential. They create hope out of hopelessness and will never ask their people to give more than they can.

Inspirational Leadership gives off a powerfully contagious confidence that builds people and teams into high producing, goal achieving successes.

Leaders who inspire their people will never need their compliance because they will have their commitment. Compliant people do what they must and little more; committed people do more than they ever thought they could.

If you truly want your people to succeed then don’t simply motivate them, inspire them!

The Sacrifice of Authentic Leadership

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One of the biggest myths of leadership is what John Maxwell calls The Freedom Myth. Basically it says that once you’ve reached “the top” you’re pretty much set. You have it made! You’re free to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it. Freedom!

It’s a complete myth. The higher you go in any organization the less true freedom you have. Authentic Leaders, especially Authentic Serving Leaders, willingly sacrifice some of their freedom in order to lead. But sacrifice they do!

Life is a series of trade-offs and clearly top leaders are rewarded for their sacrifices. Their positions normally come with higher compensation and often, increased prestige. It’s the level of income and the kind of prestige that lots of people want; the problem is, they often aren’t aware of the costs, or sacrifices, associated with having it.

I hope everyone knows that “the top” is achieved through hard work. Yes, there are exceptions; people promoted because their father-in-law was the founder of the company or something like that. But those are really few and far between. The vast majority of people in key leadership positions earned their way there. That doesn’t change just because you may not like them or may not agree with them.

Here is the part where many people have a rather large misconception… being on top is no piece of cake. The sacrificing doesn’t stop. The hard work doesn’t stop. In many ways the sacrificing is greater and in almost every way, the work is harder. The stress of performing in a key leadership position has eaten up many seemingly hearty individuals.

Now, I’m not asking anyone to shed any tears for highly paid executives, again if they are in a decent sized company they are likely well compensated. But… you should stop expecting perfection from them just because they have succeeded in their career.

Key leaders should indeed be held accountable but they should also be supported. It is NOT the job of any of us in the middle to point out the weaknesses of those above us. If your goal is, as mine is, to lead up in your organization then your job should be to discover and FILL any gaps your leader may have.

That might mean sacrificing the opportunity to show how much smarter you are than the person above you. Leaders sacrifice at every level, even in the middle. When you help the leaders above you become more effective you become more effective. You earn more influence in your organization. You advance in your own leadership journey. You do the right thing and that’s never wrong.

Now, one caveat before I close out this post. While I believe that leaders should be supported there are two exceptions. If your leader breaks the law or behaves in an unethical manner then all bets are off.

As Mr. Spock once so eloquently said, “The good of the one cannot outweigh the good of the many.”

Yes, support your leader but never when it involves illegal or unethical behavior that puts the organization at risk.

Are You a Success?

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Let’s begin with my personal definition of success, or rather, what success is not.

Success is not only about money. If fact, money is a very poor measure of success. It measures monetary wealth, no more, no less. Many wealthy people are not successful people; they may have succeeded in one part of life but in other parts they are nearly complete failures.

Money doesn’t make you rich either, at least not in the way that I define “rich”. To be rich you must have true friends. Not work acquaintances, not guys from the bowling team, not people you see at church on Sunday, real friends. The kind you can count on no matter what. When have have two or three friends who will never let you down, who will always be there for you, well then you are truly rich.

My actual definition of success is pretty easy. Success is having a choice; the more choices you have the more successful you are. The choice of where you work, and who you work with. The choice of where you live, what kind of car you drive and who you spend your time with.

With that definition there are a whole lot of successful people walking around who have no idea just how successful they are. They may “want” to drive a BMW but can’t afford it, still they have the choice of dozens of car models to choose from. There are many people without that choice.

A lot of people would say they have no choice but to work where they do. The fact is they were looking for a job when they found the one they have. To work somewhere else they simply need to make the choice to look again, it may be a long search but the sooner it begins the sooner it ends.

Have I made it sound easy to succeed? Well it’s not! It’s hard work to manufacture the ability to choose. Successful people don’t just work harder than less successful people, they work much, much, much harder. They also have goals and a written plan on how they will achieve them.

Successful people have made the effort to earn themselves extra choices.

I say “extra” because everyone, yes everyone, begins with the same choices. We begin life with so many choices I couldn’t mention them all. As we grow and can actually begin to start making choices some people seem to forget they ever had a choice. But even today you still have choices. The choice to learn, the choice to try, or not, the choice to decide how much worry something is worth. The choice to forgive, the choice to see the good in other people and most importantly, the choice of a positive attitude.

No matter what is happening around you no one can steal from you the precious gift of a positive attitude ….. unless you let them. You have a choice to make each day, you can choose to be negative or you can choose to be positive. By and large, the most successful people choose positive.

You can too. When you make the choice each day to have a positive attitude you’ll suddenly find yourself with a whole lot of other choices you didn’t realize you had.

So, what’s your choice?

The Approachable Leader

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If you’re a very high level leader in a mid to large size organization you live a good part of your life in a bubble. The higher in your organization you are the bigger, and stronger, the bubble.

You may disagree with that but that’s because you live in a bubble, apparently the bubble can’t be seen from the inside but it is pretty obvious to anyone looking at it from the outside.

The bubble causes lots of issues for leaders. Generally speaking the bubble makes it more challenging to be an effective leader. That’s because not only can you not see the bubble, you can’t see the haze the bubble puts around everything you do see. The bubble also muffles the voices of a good many people you talk with.

Now, it’s not anything that a leader does that causes the bubble. A bit of the bubble is caused by people’s almost natural fear of being themselves around what I’ll call an “authority figure.” When you’re the boss you have a measure of control over a big part of your people’s lives and that tends to make a lot of them a bit skittish.

The biggest cause of the bubble however is what leaders don’t do. They don’t take concrete steps to escape the bubble or better yet, simply destroy the bubble entirely. They do not make themselves an approachable leader.

So, how does a leader get outside the bubble or eliminate it completely?

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Transparent, consistent, honest, open, frequent, wide-ranging, real, two-way communication. Communication is a great way to bring downs walls and burst bubbles. There are many ways to effectively communicate these days, even if your team is very large.

Nothing will ever replace face-to face conversations. No matter what anybody says, nothing will replace the personal touch. So as I suggest a couple of alternatives to live, personal interactions please understand that I’m not suggesting you use these instead of personal communication, I’m suggesting to use these along with your frequent human interactions.

Write a company or organization blog. Don’t have it written, write it yourself. Seriously, a blog post saying hey, here’s what happening lately should take less than 30 minutes to write. Once or twice a month is enough and a reply or two can be done on the fly.

Obviously you can’t share proprietary information or make anyone an inside trader but you can stay more visible. The reality today is that people read blogs, your people will most certainly read yours. You can share your weekend plans, tell a story about your family, discuss a topic in the news. You may wonder why your people would care but know this: they do. You had better hope they do because if they don’t care about you as a person they can’t care about you as a leader. Let them know you’re human, just like them.

Do a weekly Podcast. A two or three minute podcast with current information and a shot of motivation delivered straight to your team’s email each Monday morning. Again, it’s purely conversational, personal and connecting. A two or three minute podcast shouldn’t take much longer to record than, well than, two or three minutes.

Both of these ideas require time. The question is does interacting with your people seem like an expense of your time or an investment of your time? As a leader, remaining close to the people who make-up your organization is priceless. It costs so little yet means so much.

This is an investment that will pay returns almost immediately, and unlike most investments this one is almost a sure thing. Why wouldn’t a leader make this investment today?

How Much a Woman Should Earn

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We can thank Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella for this post. In the blunder of blunders he inadvertently shined a light on gender inequality during an event focused on women in tech. He suggested women shouldn’t ask for raises but rather trust that the system will take care of them.

“It’s not really about asking for the raise but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along,” Nadella said in the interview, which was at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix. “And that, I think, might be one of the additional superpowers that quite frankly women who don’t ask for raises have.”

“Because that’s good karma,” Nadella continued. “It’ll come back because somebody’s going to know that’s the kind of person that I want to trust. That’s the kind of person that I want to really give more responsibility to.”

Now isn’t that special. Women may not have money to pay their bills but they have that karma thing working for them …. which is good.

To be fair, Nadella almost immediately took to social media to declare that he had misspoken, that he was wrong, that he was completely wrong, that he wasn’t clear, and he was just about anything he needed to be to make the whole thing just go away.

That he was wrong is obvious; why he was wrong isn’t so clear. Did he just misspeak or did he forget he was talking out loud and let his true thoughts go public. Oh how I wish somebody would have followed up with a question about how men should ask for a raise. I just can’t escape the feeling that his answer would have been very different.

But is he actually right?

I have compiled a list of all the reasons, yes, ALL the reasons why women should NOT be paid equally to their male counterparts. Here it is:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, what do you think. I’m absolutely certain that’s all of them. Every one that makes sense anyway. So, it’s plain to see why women should just sit there quietly and trust the “system” that has been undervaluing them since, well, since forever.

Here’s the deal; everybody, everybody, who does the same job with the same results and with similar experience should be payed the same. The exact same! The job and how well it’s done is all that should matter. It’s time to fix this once and forever.

It can’t be that hard. If companies can’t afford to pay more than maybe men don’t get a raise until women catch up. Maybe the stockholders or owners take a hit until women are paid equally. Maybe it’s something else, but SOMETHING must change.

Here’s one thing that must change: I was talking with a friend of mine, a former CEO and CFO of a couple of fairly large companies. I asked about this topic and he said women are paid less “because their income is incremental” to the “main bread winner.” Any guesses as to the gender of the “main” bread winner?

Now my friend is a great guy and at 80 years old it’s been a while since he has influenced a business but while he’s retired his thinking in too many businesses persists. THAT MUST CHANGE!

Here’s another thing that must change: get rid of job descriptions. Replace them with Position Results Descriptions. Job descriptions are task oriented and allow a myriad of biases to enter a performance review. Position Results Descriptions are a truly performance based evaluation tool that considers only the key results areas required for the job and objectively measures, with predetermined measurements, whether or not the “result” was achieved successfully. It doesn’t allow race, age, or gender to enter into the picture. Not even subconsciously.

Fair is fair. I don’t know if there was ever a legitimate reason for women to be paid less then men but I can guarantee you there is no legitimate reason today. Karma doesn’t pay bills, equal pay for equal work does!

Public Speaking for Non Speakers

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Public Speaking! The mere words back-to-back send shivers the down spine of most people. On the list of a human being’s biggest fears public speaking is nearly always in first or second place and the fear of death is no higher than sixth. So when people say they would rather die than speak in front of a group they aren’t kidding, at least statistically speaking.

I’m in front of groups often but I’ve never made a speech. I do talks. One of the keys to successfully speaking in front of large groups of people is to realize that you’re not talking at them, you’re talking with them. It’s a bit of a one-sided conversation but still, it’s just a conversation. Making it more than that only makes it harder on you, the presenter.

Your fear of speaking in front of a group will subside in direct proportion to the amount of preparation you put into your talk. That said, you should also know that’s is possible to over prepare. I’m often asked how long it takes me to prepare for an hour or two talk. The truth is I spend very little time preparing for an individual presentation but on the other hand, I’ve spent decades preparing to speak on the subject.

While preparing to speak in front of a group here is one absolute no-no. Never, and I mean never, memorize your presentation. If you absolutely must read it then read it but never attempt to memorize it. So many things can go wrong with a memorized presentation that I couldn’t begin to list them all here.

Here’s a public speaking truth for you: if you know what you’re talking about you have no reason to be nervous, if you don’t know what you’re talking about you have no reason to be speaking. You cannot be effective in front of a group talking about something you know very little about. If you don’t know your subject inside and out no amount of preparation will hide that fact from your audience.

The best way to be effective in front of a group is to just be real, be yourself. Don’t think you need to be perfect to be effective. It’s okay to stumble here or there, to misuse a word and have to correct yourself. It’s okay to be less than perfect because it gives you one more thing in common with your audience. Nobody is perfect.

Never use three words when you can say it effectively in two. A great speaker doesn’t count their words, they weigh them. Big, seldom heard words are not the secret to success in speaking, they are the reason for lost audiences. Just talk the way you would to a friend, big words don’t make you an effective speaker, connecting and truly communicating with your audience does that. If you have to look up a word to know what it means, don’t use it in a talk because your audience might not have a dictionary handy.

Most importantly have fun. I try to never lose sight of what an honor it is to be trusted to speak in front of a group. If someone else has that amount of trust in you then you can surely have it in yourself. No audience goes to hear a speaker hoping that the speaker will fail, your audience wants you to succeed almost as much as you do. They are on your side. Have fun with your presentation, if you’re having a good time presenting your information it’s much more likely that your audience will enjoy hearing it.

Lastly, remember people seldom actually die from speaking in front of groups. Oh wait, I guess it’s that “seldom” part that’s the problem.😏

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