A Master Class in How NOT To Lead

There are lots of ways NOT to lead. Most leaders discover them over a period of time. The best leaders actually learn from the mistakes of others and don’t make repeat them on their watch. 

But every now and then we see a “leader” make every possible leadership mistake all at once, or at least in a very short period of time. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. Elon Musk. 

The mistakes are too numerous to mention on a short blog like this. It’s also very possible this post gets me kicked off Twitter, Mr. Musk’s new toy, permanently. 

Which brings me to mistake number one. Being so thin skinned that you do not allow a single word of dissent. Authentic Leaders seek out information that can help their people and the organization do better. They even seek out information they don’t want to hear. In fact, that may be the most useful information. They do not seek revenge or retribution against those who offer an opinion. No matter how much they may disagree with that opinion. 

Authentic Leaders consider the consequences of the consequences of the consequences. They know that every action will create a reaction and that those reactions often cause a series of reactions. They think through their decisions and ALL the implications. 

Authentic Leaders work off a plan. They know that no plan is perfect but the act of planning is. They thoughtfully consider goals and objectives. AND the most efficient path to those objectives. That planning provides many “fall back” scenarios when the plan gets off track, as they almost always do. When you see a major decision made and implemented at 11:00am, then rescinded at 1:00pm only to be reimplemented at 2:00pm you have to wonder exactly what the plan looks like. You may even begin to think there is no plan at all. 

Authentic Leaders know that first and foremost leadership is about people. They understand the implications their decisions can have on their people.  They work to minimize any negative impacts those decisions may create. They would never ask their people to swear allegiance to them. Or commit to working hours that make it impossible for them to have a life outside of work. 

Leaders must understand that a balanced employee is a productive employee. Authentic Leaders work to ensure their people have a decent work/life balance. They understand that creativity, dedication and commitment cannot be obtained without it. 

I know a couple of people who work for Twitter and what I hear from them is NOT good. Every, I know every is a very big word so I use it carefully but virtually EVERY leadership principle I know has been thrown aside by Mr. Musk. He’s a smart man, he can put them back in place but only if he’s serious about his $44 billion dollar investment. Or perhaps that’s where I’m wrong, it wasn’t an investment at all. 

Perhaps it’s just a plaything that destroys the livelihood of the thousands of people who built Twitter into what it was. And yes, I of all people know it was not perfect. I’ve been regularly censored there and had tweets mysteriously disappear. 

But this is about leadership. Leadership is about people. People matter. Poor business practices can be fixed without burning down the business with the people still inside. 

Years from now Business Schools will still be using Twitter in case studies. They will look at how bad an acquisition can turn out when the acquiring leadership team has no plan. No long range vision,  and no understanding that it’s the people who are the most important part of the acquisition. 

Twitter appears to be stuck in the quagmire of the quantity of their decisions. Hopefully they can pull themselves into a place where the quality of their decisions become more important than the quantity. 

Where Authentic Leaders Invest Their Time

Authentic Leaders know that one of their primary responsibilities is developing future leaders. Leaving behind leaders who can step into their shoes is vital to the long term success of an organization. When you consider any of the “levels of leadership” models all of them require that a leader develop their successor, or a series of successors to achieve the level 5 status. 

Yet many leaders, even some very good leaders, miss that key responsibility. There are many reasons for that. One of the big ones is that they get caught up in the day to day managing of the organization and let their leadership responsibilities fall to the bottom on their priorities. Sometimes they can’t see the leadership candidates in their organizations. That is also a result of being too “busy” to actually lead. 

I remember a conversation several years ago with a Director of Sales for a division of a company. He was leaving his role as Director and moving into a new role within his company. Just before he left his current role he asked me to critique his performance. 

He was a good leader. His people liked him, and more importantly, respected him. He was results driven and he helped his people get better. You’re probably thinking that all sounds good, and it was. But there was one big gap in his leadership. 

So I shared much of the good things about his leadership. Then I shared the gap. As he left his current role there was not one person on his team of a dozen or so people prepared to step into his role. That was a huge failure of his leadership. I knew that most people who asked to be “critiqued” really want to hear that they are doing great. Most aren’t actually looking for constructive criticism, they are looking to hear they have no need for improvement. So he wasn’t exactly happy with my input. But it was 100% accurate. 

I finished up with the rest of what he was doing well as a leader and offered to help him develop leaders in his next role. As disappointed as he may have been with my feedback I’m happy to say he took me up on my offer. 

So where exactly does a leader find future leaders in their organization? In a word, everywhere. 

Many organizations have some sort of talent pool. This is a select group of employees targeted for development. I don’t know much about how that works because I’ve never been in a pool like that. But I do know this…once somebody is in that pool it seems nearly impossible to get them out. Conversely, it appears that once you’re passed over for the opportunity to swim in that pool you’re never getting in. 

And that’s where leaders, sometimes even very good leaders, make their biggest mistake. They assume that the people they need have a certain “look.” They are of a certain demographic. They talk a certain way and dress “the way” a leader dresses. 

Leaders who fall short in developing future leaders don’t realize their entire organization is a talent pool just waiting, hoping, and needing to be developed. When only a small group of “select” people are allowed into that developmental pool many potential leaders are overlooked. 

If the organization is lucky those potential leaders will leave the organization and go on to greatness somewhere else. If the organization is unlucky those potential leaders will allow their potential to be wasted by staying with the organization that doesn’t see their value. They become the disenchanted and disengaged employees who cost organizations limitless amounts of money. 

If you’re a leader and you’re wondering where to invest your time my answer is everywhere. At some point your future leaders will show themselves and you can invest extra time with them. But never stop working to grow ALL your people. Not everyone rises to the top with the same speed. Some people develop faster than others. 

People will surprise you. I’ve seen over and over some of the best swimmers left out of the talent pool because they didn’t “fit” someone’s preconceived notion of what a “winner” or a “leader” looks like. 

As a leader it is your responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen in your organization. You can delegate the task of developing future leaders to your HR and Training Departments but you can’t delegate the responsibility. 

Remember that and your pool of potential future leaders will get a whole lot bigger. 

A Position of Leadership

I frequently hear from people who want to move up in their organization. Most of them are looking for a leadership position. Many of them are most interested in the “perks” of leadership. More money, more flexibility, more control, over themselves and the people they work with. Some say they want the authority and power that they think come with a leadership position. 

Some say they want to “leave a mark” on their organization and be remembered after they are gone. A few, very few, say they want to help people develop and grow. 

And that perhaps is why we see fewer and fewer Authentic Leaders in the world today. 

Too many people today are interested in a leadership position and too few are interested in actually leading. People assume, and I think this is the biggest fallacy of leadership, they assume that once they are promoted to a leadership position they are a leader.

Nothing could be further from the truth. All that position does is give someone the illusion of leadership. It fools many of them into thinking that they have somehow gotten smarter overnight. It bewilders them into believing that because they hold a position of leadership that other people will see them as someone they want to follow. 

You can’t blame them for buying into those myths. It’s likely the people who promoted them have bought into them for years. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. It’s one of the most common reasons that businesses fail. 

Here are the myth busting facts. Holding a leadership position does not make you a leader. You do not even need to be in a so called position of leadership to actually lead. Leadership is not a position, it is a disposition. It is a mindset. It is a personal culture that says I care enough to make a difference in the lives of other people, even if that comes with a personal expense to me. 

Being promoted to a leadership position puts you at the appropriately named “position” level of leadership. At this level of leadership you likely have few true leadership skills. You very likely have no formal leadership training. Because of this you’re probably going to lead the same way you’ve been led. Which is to say you won’t be doing much leading. 

You’ll attempt to force the compliance of the people you’re supposed to be leading. About the only way you know how to do that is to provide a set of consequences if your people don’t do what they are told. If the consequences are severe enough, and the people need the job, they will comply. You’ll fool yourself again into thinking you’re doing a swell job. 

But almost every single personnel issue a company has is caused by leaders occupying this level of leadership. People will not follow a position level leader past their stated job description. If you’ve ever heard from one of your people that “you can’t make me do that, it’s not in my job description” then you know for a fact that they see you as a position level leader. Even if they don’t know it’s called that. Even if you didn’t know it was called that. 

At this level of leadership continuous attitude issues arise. This level of leadership is the primary driver of disengaged people, those people that lately have been described as “quiet quitters.” Your people will not openly disobey you, they will slow walk everything you ask them to do. Position level leaders have no way of motivating their people and often don’t even know that’s one of their prime responsibilities as a leader. 

Everyone starts at the position level of leadership but the longer you stay there the more likely you are to be stuck there forever. At this level you have a lot to learn but if you’re willing to learn it the rewards are significant. 

Once you move past this level your personnel issues begin to melt away. The same people who had attitude issues become much better team members. Your people look for ways to solve problems rather then  pointing out everything that’s wrong. You’ll wonder what caused them to change but the truth will be they didn’t change, YOU did. You learned to lead people instead of trying to manage them. 

Once you’re past the position level of leadership you won’t need the compliance of your people because you’ll have their commitment. They will be committed to you because you have the courage to show you care more for them as people than you care about them as employees.

Being an Authentic Leader means investing a part of yourself in the people you lead. It’s hard work but perhaps the most rewarding work you’ll ever do. Make the effort to move past the position level of leadership and see the difference it makes in your life and the lives of everyone you lead. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did. 

How to Lead and How Not to Lead – One more in a periodic series 

Apparently people need to feel appreciated. But, as a person who occupies a leadership position with no intention of actually leading, you don’t have time for what people need. You pay them to do their jobs. A paycheck is all the appreciation they are going to get from you. 

As a non-leader in a leadership position you know how silly it is to recognize people for a job well done. It’s ridiculous to express appreciation to people who merely did what they are supposed to do. It’s not your job to play nursemaid to people who need to be constantly reminded of their value to the organization. 

If the paycheck they get isn’t enough recognition then that’s their problem not yours. Somebody promoted you into the leadership position you’re now in. They must agree with your thinking about silly stuff like recognition and showing appreciation. You’re on track for another promotion so keep up the crappy leadership!

Or…you could stop thinking in terms of promotions and start thinking more like a leader. 

Authentic Leaders go out of their way to observe the people they lead so they can catch them doing the RIGHT things. Then they reward them for it with verbal or even written recognition. 

Recognition provided in written form, like a short note for instance, has much more staying power than mere verbal recognition. While I encourage consistent verbal recognition the occasional hand written note has power that should not be underestimated. 

People will hold on to that note a long time. They will share it with family and friends. It is validating for them. It’s confirms their hope that they matter and that someone else realizes it too. 

Verbal recognition and appreciation is great but written recognition and notes of appreciation are even greater. It costs so little in terms of time but it means so much for the people on the receiving end. 

Being an Authentic Leader requires a great deal more effort than just occupying a leadership position. It requires that the Authentic Leader have to courage to show they care. It requires that they see the people they lead as human beings. It requires that they invest time in their people and work to help their people succeed. And it requires that they be generous with their recognition of, and appreciation for, their people. 

Their reward for that effort is engaged and committed followers. Something the “pretend leaders” who won’t make the effort to actually lead will never have. 

Some of you know that I’ve been trying out something relatively new over on Twitter. It’s called SuperFollow. That means I post some tweets that are for subscribers only. The tweets I post for subscribers are video only. I post two each weekday, mostly on leadership but also sales and living a better life in general. I’m also way more available for questions from SuperFollowers than I can be for the million plus regular Twitter followers. The investment to see these “SuperTweets” is $4.99 a month, that’s about 17 cents a day. The videos continue to grow in popularity so clearly a lot of people think they are worthwhile. 

Not only can you invest in yourself with solid video coaching, you can also make a difference in the world too. All the income from my SuperFollowers on Twitter go to help kids with Down Syndrome. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP or on a web browser. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and what topics you’d like to see me address.

How to Lead and How Not to Lead – Another of a periodic series

The most effective leaders, the ones who achieve the highest level of leadership, the Pinnacle level, are more than Authentic Leaders. They are Authentic Servant Leaders. They have turned their organizational chart upside down.  They put their people above themselves in the organization. 

Their impact on the organization far outlasts their time in the organization. Authentic Leaders make an impact but too often their impact leaves the organization with them. It is by serving the people you lead that you leave a legacy behind. 

But…that’s a whole lotta work. To be an Authentic Servant Leader you have to really want it. You have to sacrifice. You have to invest yourself in the success of other people. You have to give a healthy portion of your ego food to those you lead. You have to care for the people you lead. 

It’s far easier to manage the people who work for you. It’s not actually leading but so what, you’ve got a leadership position and a nice title and that’s what matters most. But people want consistency from their boss so it’s best to either always manage or always lead. Going back and forth will confuse your people. 

So here’s how to make certain they don’t sometimes see you as a leader. 

Never never never ask people to identify what they need to succeed. Avoid asking them how you can help them. As an experienced manager you know darn well that if you ask people what they need to succeed they will want more time, equipment and heaven help you, more money. Your experience tells you that if you give these people an inch, they will take a mile. 

Don’t get to know them as people. It’s best to think of them as an employee number. I wouldn’t call them by their number because it can be a lot of work to remember all those numbers. But never lose site of the fact that they are only a number. Thinking of them as people could get very confusing for you. They are only an asset, much like your computers and printers. Do not let your people even think you might care for them. 

Follow that advice and I promise you this, you may hold a leadership position but you will never be mistaken for an actual leader. 

Of course, you could always choose to make their lives better and your life more fulfilling by working to earn the right to Authentically Lead them. 

To Authentically Lead you must first understand the difference between managing and leading. We manage things. Things like budgets, buildings, equipment, inventories and the like. We lead people. Leading people requires that you care for them. You may care about the things you manage but you must care for people. Your people,  like you, can feel the difference between a boss who cares about them, like they care about the copier, and a leader who cares for them, like a human being. 

You can’t just tell your people that you care for them, you need to show it. 

You can do that by engaging with them frequently. By asking them how they are doing. Not necessarily at work,  but also how they are doing at life. Ask what you can do to help them, either at work or at life. Then do what Authentic Servant Leaders do…listen. Listen so intently that the person you’re speaking with gets the impression that in that moment, they are the only person in the world. 

Then do something else that Authentic Servant Leaders do…act on what you heard. Do everything you can possible do to meet the needs of your people. You asked and now they are waiting to see if your questions were for show or if your questions were to help them grow. 

If you can’t do what you were asked to do then do what Pinnacle level leaders do…go back and explain why and tell your people what you can do. A shrug of the shoulders and a sorry about that will not get it done. 

Once you’ve asked the questions that demonstrate you care, you have put yourself at the crossroads of your leadership journey. You will either move up the path towards Authentic Servant Leadership or down the path of a wannabe leader. 

The rewards for attempting to manage another human being are a position, a title and likely more money. The rewards for Authentically Leading others with a servant’s heart are limitless. You’ll make a positive impact on the lives of others. You will touch the lives of people you may never know. You will shape the future of your organization, for generations to come. You will be building more leaders who will build more leaders as well. Your leadership will far outlast you. Your life and leadership will have made a difference in the world.

The choice between leading people and trying to manage them is one that you must make for yourself. Pinnacle Level Leaders decide to leave a part of themselves behind when they are gone. They choose to give of themselves. In doing so they receive more in return than lesser leaders could ever imagine. 

So what will it be for you?

On a another note… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

A Leadership Disposition

I have known many people over the years who aspired to hold a leadership position. Many of them were even willing to put in the work they believed would earn them that position. Most of them did in fact manage to get promoted to a leadership position. 

But many of them never realized that while they were promoted to a position of leadership they were not promoted to leader. They didn’t know that no one could promote them to the position of leader. They also didn’t realize that having a leadership position or the title of a leader doesn’t make you one. 

They simply bought into the greatest of all leaderships myths. The myth that where someone is on an organizational chart determines their level of leadership. The reality is, all that position does is provide them with an little easier opportunity to earn the privilege of leading someone. 

Many “position leaders” assume that upon being promoted to a position of leadership that they have arrived. Upon “arriving” at this position their learning about leadership too often stops, assuming it ever started. It’s almost like learning to drive a car. Has anyone ever took more driver education classes right after getting their driver’s license? Many people in leadership positions don’t need any leadership development because they already “lead” every day. 

Except they don’t. They most likely attempt to manage people. I say “attempt” because it is if fact impossible to manage another human being. 

By far, the most effective leaders were leaders long before they ever held a position of leadership. They knew early on that leadership was way more about their disposition than it was about their position. Leaders who understand that fact are Authentic Leaders. They don’t need a title or position in order to lead. What they need is a decision that says “I choose to make a positive difference in the lives of others.” I choose NOT to wait for a position or title to make that difference. I choose to Lead Today. 

They do not wait for a position that people will “have to” follow. They work to become the type of person that people will want to follow. 

Authentic Leaders invest their experience, time, energy, and resources to help other people grow. Potentially, they help those people grow into leaders themselves. They know that to help other people grow they need to constantly be growing themselves as well. When they do find themselves in a position of leadership they don’t see it as “arriving,” they see it as part of their never ending journey of self-development. 

If you want to one day hold a position of leadership then don’t work to impress people who can promote you to a leadership position. Instead, work to earn the followership of people you help succeed while on your own journey to success. The people who can promote you to a position of leadership will notice. 

You won’t just have earned a leadership position, you’ll have earned the opportunity to authentically lead. 

On a another note… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

Why Are There so Many Poor Leaders?

Almost every time I write a blog post or post something on Twitter about how to lead effectively, I get a flood of responses. Most are about how people are impacted by poor leadership. 

It’s seems that people believe there are far more poor leaders in the world today than there are good ones. They believe that because sadly, it’s true. 

While it’s true, it’s not a surprise. It’s not a surprise when you realize that the vast majority of people in leadership positions have less than 10 hours of formal leadership development. Even many people at the very top of organizations have learned how to lead through on the job training. Which isn’t necessary bad, unless of course the people showing them how to lead are poor leaders themselves…and that’s very often the case. 

If you’re in a leadership position and have no formal leadership training then it’s most likely that you are leading the same way that you were led. It’s also most likely that the people who have led you throughout your career had no formal leadership training either. They have passed down to you the same poor leadership habits that were passed down to them. 

But here’s the thing about formal leadership training. It can’t actually teach you how to lead. 

It can make you aware of the characteristics that Authentic Leaders possess. It can help you develop some of those characteristics within yourself. Formal leadership training can help prepare you for making difficult decisions by role playing.  Also through case studies of situations previously dealt with by Authentic Leaders. Formal leadership training helps a ton. It helps you learn from the mistakes of others. It helps you understand the huge difference between attempting to manage a person and leading someone in a way that has a positive impact on their life. 

But eventually, your leadership abilities will come down to who you are as a person. Your leadership effectiveness will be determined by how much you care for the people you lead and how willing you are to show it. You need to be honest with yourself to accomplish that. Likely more honest than you’re able to be without some additional help.

That’s why I say again and again successful leaders NEED a mentor. Or mentors. This person, or these people are your “board of directors.” Your “board” can be a group of close friends who you respect as successful people, regardless of their area of expertise. But they must be people who are comfortable telling you uncomfortable truths. They must also be people who you trust enough to listen to and act upon those truths. 

But here’s the one thing that separates great leaders from lesser leaders. The most accomplished leaders didn’t wait until they were placed in a leadership position to develop their leadership skills. They knew that a position or fancy title was not a prerequisite for leading. They formed their “board” early in their careers and followed through on the advice they received. 

When their time came to lead there was no “on the job training” required. They were prepared to make a positive difference in the lives of others because they had been doing it all along.

Do you have a board? If not, it’s never too late to start one. Consider your board member(s) carefully. They don’t have to be your best friends, in fact it might be better if they aren’t. You don’t need to always see eye to eye with them, in fact it’s definitely better if you don’t. 

If you’re given the opportunity to lead then you have the chance to impact future generations that may never know your name. You can have a positive impact by being the leader who stops the legacy of poor leadership. Even if your past “leaders” have been more like Attila the Hun than Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela you can break the cycle of poor leadership.  You can make the decision that you will lead authentically and not the way you were led. 

Authentic Leadership is hard. You have to really want to do it. It requires real effort but the gratitude of the people you made a difference for is well worth that effort. 

So what do you say? Will you be a difference maker? All it takes to get started is a decision that you will LeadToday!

On a another note… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.