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A Position of Leadership

You can be promoted to a management position and that makes you a manager. It doesn’t necessarily make you a good manager but it does make you a manager. It does not, it absolutely does not, make you a leader.

You can be promoted to a leadership position as well but that absolutely DOES NOT make you a leader. Not even a bad leader, no promotion, no matter how high up in an organization, makes you a leader.

Followers make you a leader. Turn around sometimes and see if anyone is following you. If they are not then you might be going somewhere but you’re not leading.

Two of the biggest leadership mistakes that an organization or person can make is believing that management and leadership positions are automatically one and the same and thinking that having a leadership position makes you a leader.

As I’ve written a thousand times, you manage stuff and you lead people. The skill sets and more importantly, the mindsets, are very different. Yes, one person can possess both but that is far rarer than many people think. 

You do not need a title or position to lead. Leadership is far more about disposition than it is position. 

Leading requires that you make a decision to influence others to your way of thinking and doing. 

Authentic Leadership requires that you make a decision to influence others to your way of thinking and doing and to do so in as a transparent and consistent method as possible. 

Authentic Servant Leadership requires that you make a decision to influence others to the best way of thinking and doing and to do so in as a transparent and consistent method as possible. It also requires that you truly care about the people you lead and that your actions frequently put your people ahead of yourself. 

You might not be sure if you’re talking to a leader or if the leader you’re talking to is an Authentic Leader but you will most certainly know when your interacting with an Authentic Servant Leader, their caring nature and concern for your well-being is almost constantly on display. 

If you’ve earned a leadership position then congratulations. Your first task should be to also earn the right to truly lead. The next handful of posts will discuss what skills and characteristics you’ll need to earn that right. 

Step one to earning the right to lead is realizing that your position or title merely gives you a head start. It’s your actions and how people respond to them that will determine if you’re actually a leader. 

 
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Mind Your Gaps

I had the opportunity several years ago to sit in on a presentation to a group of senior leaders. The presentation was from a speaker who uses Civil War history to teach leadership lessons. 

As someone who was required to take Military History as part of my high school curriculum I can tell you that military battles offer great insights into leadership successes and failures. I was excited to hear the presentation. 

The presentation focused on The Battle of Gettysburg which began on July 1st, 1863. During the first hours of battle, Union General John Reynolds was killed while leading his troops from the front. Outnumbered, the union forces were stymied for a time and it took awhile for them to regroup.

After sharing the story of the early hours of that famous battle the presenter asked the assembled group of senior leaders whether or not General Reynolds made the right decision in leading from the front. He had exposed himself to enemy fire and left his troops without his leadership as a result.

The leadership team in the room had differing opinions as to the wisdom of General Reynolds decision. Some thought it better if he had “lead from the rear” thus protecting himself from direct conflict. They felt that he jeopardized the mission by putting himself in harms way. You could see their point considering that his death did seem to slow down the union forces for a time. 

Others thought he showed true leadership by putting himself out front. Their point was that a leader shouldn’t ask their people to do something that they as a leader were unwilling to do. They also pointed out that since the Union forces eventually won his decision was proven correct. Also a good point. 

But here’s what I truly found fascinating; most had an opinion. They had this opinion in spite of having very little actual information about how the battle unfolded. There were a lot of “gaps” in the story of the battle as presented. (I’m sure the presenter did that mostly in the interest of time)

So how did this room full of top leaders come to an opinion with so little information? How did they know if General Reynolds had made the right decision despite the “gaps” in the story?

They did what all leaders, all people actually, do when they need to make a decision without all available information….they filled in the gaps with information from their own experiences. 

As I observed these key leaders offer their opinions I knew immediately which ones would accept risk in a decision and which ones would be more cautious…perhaps too cautious to lead in difficult circumstances. 

Those who believed that Reynolds had made the right call were willing to accept some level of risk and those who thought he had made the wrong call likely were not willing to accept that same level of risk. 

If time had permitted and the presenter had filled in the gaps himself then the audience wouldn’t have needed to supplant the story with their own experiences. In that case I really would not have been able to assess their appetite for risk. 

That same scenario plays out in business all the time. Leaders and their people make decisions even when they don’t have all the information that they wish they had. They simply use information from their own life history to fill in the gaps. 

That’s why two smart people, presented with identical, if incomplete information, can reach such differing conclusions. 

As a leader it is imperative that you know you’re people well. The better you know them and especially the better you understand them, the better you’ll understand the information they use to fill in their gaps. 

It’s also vital that you understand where your own “gap filling” information comes from. 

Understanding how both you and your people mind their gaps will help you see how two very different conclusions could both seem correct. 

Now, as to General Reynolds…the only mistake we can actually confirm he made was getting himself shot. As a good military leader he knew full well that his ultimate goal was not dying for the North, his ultimate goal was making as many Confederate troops as possibly die for the South. 

In that effort he failed completely.

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The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

The iPhone just turned 10. Happy Birthday iPhone! 

Lots of people, actually lots and lots of people, who supposedly are experts, or were experts, on technology kind of stuff said the iPhone wouldn’t see one year much less ten. 

There were a wide variety of reasons including touch screens don’t work, multi-use gadgets will NEVER be popular, and of course it fills a need that doesn’t exist. 

Until the articles starting showing up recently in conjunction with Apple’s big anniversary I had forgotten just how negative many people were about the new technology. Some of the experts just clearly didn’t have the vision of a Steve Jobs and some I think didn’t like Apple. Some were just negative about anything new. 

Some people are just negative period. 

So be careful when sharing your plans and ideas with others. Apple had the courage of their convictions to press on with the unheard of idea. Many of us do not. We are too easily talked out of doing what we believe in by negative people who see our success as a threat to their negative views. 

If we succeed at doing something that they could have done but choose not to do then they think that makes them look bad. Negative people would prefer we fail because that supports their tormented view of life. 

The heck with them! 

Do not let negative people talk you out of trying to improve. Whether it’s improving the world, improving your workplace or even and perhaps most importantly, improving yourself. 

Most of what we take for granted today the nattering nabobs of negativism at one time said couldn’t be done. Negative people think in terms of “can’t” while positive people, who also happen to be the most successful people, think in terms of “can.” 

You can, you can, you can and don’t ever let anyone tell you anything different!

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The Evolution of Leadership

Geez, I’ve seen a bunch of posts and articles lately on the “evolution of leadership.” It seems a fair number of people are falling into the trap of believing that leadership needs to “adapt” to the “times.” 

Well, that just ain’t so!

Certainly some, just some, of the tactics of leadership change through the years. The well documented generational differences dictate that change. Generally speaking, very generally speaking, the motivational triggers of the different generations vary, but not as much as many  people think. 

Given those variances good leaders adjust. But they don’t adjust to trick or manipulate, they adjust to deliver motivation, discipline, and vision in the manor in which it is best received. 

While some leadership tactics change the core leadership principles and strategies do not. 

They don’t change because leadership is about people and people haven’t really changed….ever.

The basic human needs, as described by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs have never really changed. Humans as it turns out are human. It doesn’t make a difference when they were born, where they where born, what sex they are, what color they are, or if they are rich or poor, humans are human. Every single one of them.

Leaders don’t lead businesses, (businesses are managed) leaders don’t lead countries, (countries are governed) leaders lead people, nothing more and nothing less. Those people also happen to be human.

Leaders get in trouble when they forget that very basic fact. 

One of the biggest reasons that people dislike change is because they see change as a threat to one or more of their basic human needs. A leader understands that just because it might not make sense to the leader doesn’t mean it isn’t very real to the person they are leading. 

Here’s another thing that can cause challenges for a leader. While human beings basic needs are much the same no two people are exactly identical. Even identical twins would be better described as “more similar” than most people. Understanding the differences of the people you lead is what makes leading so interesting and a constant learning experience.

Great leaders understand the sameness of their people’s basic needs to develop leadership strategies and learn the unique aspects of their people’s personalities to develop the tactics of successful leadership. In both cases they never forget that they are leading people not things.

That’s why the most important skills for a leader to have are people skills. They always have been most important and they will always be most important. Because leadership is about people! 

That’s never changed and it never will.

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Everything Changes

Here’s a question for you to think about. Are you managing change in your life or is change managing your life? 

It’s one or the other because this much is certain: “things” in your life are changing. 

I’m a bit astonished at the number of people I run into who are still almost completely resistant to change. They expend tremendous amounts of energy fighting it rather then trying to figure out how to use it to their advantage. 

I understand why people may be a little reluctant to fully embrace change. Every change brings with it the possibility of something worse. To some people the risk of “worse” is just not worth the possibility of something better. 

People also fear failure. Changing your job, or changing your career or changing almost anything has the possibility of ending in complete failure and nobody wants that. 

Few people really embrace the unknown and every change brings with it a set of “unknowns.” No matter how well you’ve thought out the change there is likely to be something that you didn’t plan on. That’s more risk. 

Change also tells us that time is passing. We’re getting older. For the life of me I can’t find a single corner store with the penny candy that I so enjoyed as a kid. Now that I can buy as much penny candy as I want, without even asking my parents permission, there is no penny candy to be found. I can’t believe anyone would call that progress.

So, many people agree that for the most part, change is bad. 

But that’s because most people just habitually focus on the negative aspects of change. (Yes, I said most people and the fact that it’s sad doesn’t mean it isn’t true) We’ve all had poor experiences with change and it seems the bad outcomes are far easier to remember than the more common good outcomes. 

Stop and think for a minute about the last ten years of your life. So many things have changed that it’s hard to remember them all. Just 10 years ago the iPhone existed only in the developmental labs of Apple. Today it’s hard for many people to think of life without a Smartphone in their pocket.

It’s seems like half the people I know are now wearing some sort of fitness tracker. Just 5 years ago people would have said “a fitness what?” 

Some of us are old enough to remember getting the long distance bill. For those of you not old enough to remember that, it’s the extra bill from the telephone company for calling someone with a different area code. For those of you who are really young the area code is the first three digits of your phone number.

My how things have changed…. so many improvements we have forgotten most of them…and more things continue to change everyday. 

Today the gig economy is growing almost by the minute. A recent study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors. That’s an incredible pace of change that will affect the workplace for all Americans, not just those participating in the gig economy but anyone who works for a living.

The point is simple: everything changes with time. Everything! 

Accept change as a positive in your life, it means you’re still learning and growing. It means you’re willing to try new things and stretch yourself to reach your true potential. Accepting changes proves to yourself and others that you are willing to flex a bit as you receive new information and ideas. 

Pretty much everyone wants “things” to be better but many of those same people don’t want change in their lives.

There is no “better” without change. If you really really want better then don’t wait for change to happen, make change happen in a way that “better” is ensured.

The only way to beat change is to not fight it. Make it work for you and you’ll find it cooperates a whole lot more.

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How Much do you Want It?

It’s surprising how many people are willing to accept something less than they claim to want rather then just doing the work required to get it. 

I often hear people saying “it’s” too hard or “it’s” too much work. Truth be told, I’ve even said it myself too often. The fact of the matter is, if you don’t want something enough to really really work for it then you probably don’t want it enough to have it. 

Most people are born pretty ordinary. There are clearly some who are born truly gifted and to whom “things” seem to come easier. Note the word “seem” there because if you’re not that person you really can’t say what challenges they may have overcome in order to use their “gifts.”

Then there are those people who seem to have extraordinary luck or abilities that the ordinary person just doesn’t have. I’ve envied those types from time to time. 

But then I remember the saying: The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just that little “extra.”

Once I remember that then I have no need to be envious anymore. I just need to realize that if someone has something I don’t it is because I’ve settled and they haven’t. They were willing to give that little extra and I wasn’t. 

Fortunately for me, there have been many times where I did decide to put forth that little extra to get what I wanted. It may have been extra effort, extra time, or extra sacrifice but it seems like every time I gave extra I received extra in return. 

That doesn’t make me unusual, it makes me incredibly average. Average people get more when they give more. Admittedly giving the little extra doesn’t always result in extraordinary outcomes but without the little extra you have virtually no chance of long-term success. 

Stop telling yourself that you can’t. Stop telling yourself “it’s” too hard. Nothing is too much work if you really really want to do it. All you need is discipline.

Discipline is simply wanting something tomorrow more than wanting the something you can have more easily today. 

So before you sit down in front of that TV ask yourself “do I really want to watch this show now or would I rather do “something” that helps me have a better tomorrow?” Watching the show is easy, that “something” may not be as enjoyable at the moment. 

If you choose to watch TV then know this: you’ve settled. You can no longer say something is “too hard,” you must say it was “too hard” for you. You made the choice.

There is nothing wrong with making choices that result in having less than others have. Just stop saying that you “would give anything” to have more because you’ve made it plainly obvious that in fact you wouldn’t give anything at all. I know that is pretty harsh but that’s reality. 

It’s the reality that all of us seemingly ordinary people need to know. We can be extraordinary, you can be extraordinary, if you decide you want it enough. You absolutely have the ability, the question is do you have the desire. Your future is up to you. You can have whatever you want or you can have what’s easy, it’s almost impossible to have both.

Write this down and live this in 2017: Successful people have developed the habits of doing the things that less successful people simply didn’t want to do.

Will you begin 2017 by developing the habits that will pay dividends for all your tomorrows? Will you give that little extra to achieve extraordinary results?

You will if you want it enough!

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What You Don’t Know

I don’t watch a lot of television and though I really like watching 60 Minutes (A news weekly in the United States) I rarely take or make the time to see it. 

But I really enjoyed the live show on Christmas evening. I was absolutely fascinated watching Mike Wallace interview Mark Twain. I guess it was live because it was Christmas but whatever the reason it was truly amazing watching two living legends going back and forth talking about a major topic of the day.

Fake news!

One of the more profound things that Twain said was “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” 

His point was that much of what you read on the internet just can’t be believed. He also added that sadly, today it’s just not just the internet you can’t believe, sometimes even the mainstream media reports inaccurate information. Gone are the days when all “news” needed to be verified by two or three sources, now it seems more important to be first than to be right.

Hillary Clinton said recently that fake news was an epidemic in the U.S. Not only is she right but it’s not just the United States, it’s everywhere.

Some people will apparently believe anything. Did you hear about the guy that read about the same Hillary Clinton operating a child sex ring out of a Washington DC pizza shop. This knucklehead went to the pizza shop with a gun to “investigate” for himself. Somehow the gun went off … I think the guy is still in jail.

I mean how crazy do you have to be to believe everything you read online?

Apparently not very crazy. 

In an article published by something called AWDNews on Tuesday December 20, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon was quoted as threatening to destroy Pakistan if it sent troops into Syria. “We will destroy them with a nuclear attack,” the article quoted Yaalon as saying. There is no evidence that Yaalon ever said those words.

Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Asif responded to the fake news article on his official Twitter as if it were real. He warned Israel that it was not the only nuclear power. “Israeli threatens nuclear retaliation presuming (Pakistan) role in Syria against Daesh. Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear State too,” Asif wrote late on December 23.

Pakistan has figured out that the “news” reports were fake so the world can live a while longer.

One can only wonder what obviously fake news will be believed next.

Maybe we all need to take a step back and do what real journalists used to do… Verify all information with two or even three sources before we believe it. 

I wouldn’t believe anything I saw in the “news” until I saw it in several places. You’re responsible for what you believe, not the people making stuff up. 

With that I should probably come clean and admit I did not see 60 Minutes on Christmas night. I don’t even know if it was on.

I did not see Mike Wallace interview Mark Twain on live TV. That would have been entirely impossible because Mr. Wallace passed away sometime back and Mr. Twain passed away sometime before that.

But I’d bet a days wages that somebody is right this second searching YouTube to find that Mike Wallace/Mark Twain interview. The amazing thing is that even though the interview never took place they may still be able to find it.

Some people really will believe anything.