Leading Blog


First Look: Leadership Books for October 2015

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in October.

  Entitlement Cure: Finding Success In Doing Hard Things the Right Way by John Townsend
  Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family by Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia
  Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster by Ken Blanchard, Jane Ripley and Eunice Parisi-Carew
  Lead More, Control Less: 8 Advanced Leadership Skills That Overturn Convention by Marvin R. Weisbord and Sandra Janoff
  Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Entitlement Cure Everybody Matters Collaboration Lead More Extreme Ownership

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

discounted books

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 100 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of the past centuries.”
— Descartes

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:09 AM
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LeadershipNow 140: September 2015 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from September 2015 that you might have missed:
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:31 PM
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Keeping People Front and Center

Keeping People Front and Center

AT SOME POINT we all come to see that people are the most important part of any initiative. We get caught up in the tasks, but it’s the people that leaders need to focus on.

Dominic Barton, global managing director of consulting firm McKinsey & Company, reminds us of this in an interview with The Wharton School. Talking to CEOs reflecting on their tenure he found that they all said that they would have “moved faster on people … taken people out faster, moved them up faster and spent more time on people…. I’ve not heard a single leader not say this [among] those that are toward the end of their career.”

This is made easier of you are able to compartmentalize your work. If you can isolate and focus on issues separately for short periods of time, you are better able to keep that big picture in mind—keep an eye on what’s really important. He added: “You get so many issues coming at you, and some of them can paralyze you.” He related a story from a Liberty Mutual CEO who told him, “‘In my first three weeks of my job, I would have kicked you out of my office.'” The CEO explained that at that time, he had been told by his general counsel that the company was being sued for $6 billion, and that everywhere he looked, all he could see was $6 billion. “Now, he said, ‘I’m talking to you, and I have six of those [issues going on right now], but I’m focused on you.'”
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:51 PM
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5 Leadership Lessons from Herb Greenburg

5 Leadership Lessons
Herb Greenberg, who lost his sight at age 10, developed a test to help companies assess potential employees’ abilities. He leveraged that into the global management-consulting firm, Caliper, in 1961. From What You Aren't Seeing: The Inspiring Story of Herb Greenberg we have the following lessons:

1  Leading starts with being clear about what you are willing to accept and what you need to fight for.

2  When you pull those around you into a cause that is noble and just, their collective spirit can transcend what they are capable of individually. That is when true leadership inspires. By tapping into our aspirations. We are all seeking meaning—and to be meaningful. We want to be part of something that is larger than ourselves. When a leader creates a clear sense of purpose, we respond because it helps to clarify our identity—why we are here, what we, ultimately, stand for. And when we stand for something together, feeling a strong sense of belonging, we get a glimpse into new possibilities—for ourselves and for others.

3  What are the personality attributes needed to succeed as a manager? You need to be bright enough to be able to think on your feet. You also need to be assertive enough to be able to push an agenda forward. Of course, you need to be persuasive, so you can bring others around and create consensus. In Addition, you need to be resilient enough to rebound from difficult situations that might arise. You also need to be self-motivated, as well as have what we call external structure, or the ability to organize thoughts, work and, people. And last, but not least, you need to have a high sense of urgency, or a need to get things done—now, rather than later.

4  Leadership is not something you can designate or anoint. Leadership is about the willingness of individuals to step up, take responsibility, become accountable, accept risk, and move forward. When you see someone who has those qualities and the drive to continuously improve, then, with recognition, mentoring, training, and experience, they might evolve from managing to leading. But there is no simple formula.

5  Leading is about being able to inspire others and succeeding through them, as you help them succeed.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:41 PM
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Why You Want to Change TO Something

When we encounter something that needs changing we tend to view it as a “freedom from” problem. In other words, what can I do to get rid of the obstacles or constraints that are impeding progress?

When thinking about change we should look at “freedom to” solutions. Both approaches lead to freedom but “freedom from” is a negative freedom and can lead to new problems. It’s like replacing a negative with nothing. "Freedom to" is a positive freedom.

Freedom to Change
Michael Fullan writes in Freedom to Change that most people think that is all their obstacles to change were removed they’d be better off. But evidence suggests that you would have new and more difficult challenges to face like anxiety, isolation, and doubt. “Freedom From” does not consider the changes that liberation requires for success. For instance what do I do with my new found freedoms?

Fullan says that goal is not to be free and alone but to be free with others. It is the difference between being reactive and proactive. To do that he suggests four factors for maximizing freedom to change that integrate and manage the tensions inherent in individual and group dynamics:

Autonomy and Cooperation: “Being our own person and being connected,” says Fullan, “is the core tension and challenge of living meaningfully.” We need both autonomy and cooperation. It’s not a choice. Organizations can give more autonomy in exchange for commitments to cooperate.

Feedback: Between acceptance of others and learning choose learning. “Within strong collaborative cultures, an enormous amount of feedback occurs naturally through daily focused interactions.” Feedback can be a powerful tool for positive “freedom to” change if seen properly. Fullan advises to be a learner under all circumstances.

Accountability: External accountability schemes do not work because they tell us that the system is not performing, but not how to fix the situation. Dislodging top-down accountability is extremely difficult but by building widespread internal accountability, it actually furthers the organizational goals. “The more internal accountability thrives, the greater the responsiveness to external requirements, and the less the external body has to do—there’s less need to resort to carrots and sticks to incite the system to act responsibly.” In the “freedom to” world you need to connect with others—especially peers. “It is in your own self-interest to promote a greater accountability with those around you.”

Diffusion (by interacting more widely): Lead from the middle. “Work with peers to strengthen the middle, get more done, and become better partners upwards and downwards.” Loosen up hierarchical structure so that they are more amenable to individual and small-group initiative.

Developing the “freedom to” capacity to take advantage of the new possibilities will be the hardest art. It’s always comparatively easier to get rid of old shackles than it is to take advantage of new freedoms.”

Fullan writes, “Genuine independence can only be achieved by the connected individual.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:59 PM
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Missing Ingredients: Finding the Right Team Recipe

Leading Forum
In my 25 years of professional endeavors, the lessons I apply the most often…the tools I use to achieve success . . . the skills I call on every day . . . all of these things I experienced and developed to one degree or another through sports. And when the discussion is about team sports, coaching, leadership, chemistry, relationships, role players, and all-stars become a natural part of the conversation. I find that the same is true in my business experiences and my work with civic organizations, where the natural question is why some teams perform better than others, and how to improve the performance of those that are struggling. There are a number of ways to look at this challenge, but to me, it usually comes down to three important things:

1. Same Page of the Playbook: There are many reasons why a team may be struggling, but the first place to look is the source of any activity: everyone has to agree on the foundation before you put up the house. This is true in business, true in civics, and true in life. In my new book Xbox Revisited, I chronicle the challenges we faced during the formation of the Xbox business. The cold, hard truth is that we failed to establish a strategic foundation for the business, and as a result the team was dysfunctional, our execution was inconsistent, and the business lost north of $5 billion over 4 years. We subsequently backfilled that mistake with a 3 page document that defined the Purpose, Principles, and Priorities for our second product, Xbox 360. This 3P Framework strategy process is chronicled in Xbox Revisited, and I now use it in my consulting, board work, and civic engagements. It forced the Xbox team to define a single Purpose, a joint set of operating Principles, and a focused list of Priorities that we used consistently to drive the business to market share leadership and substantial profitability for Microsoft.

2. Managers, Coaches, and Captains: Even with the greatest strategy, teams can still flounder without the right leadership. In fact, many of our early struggles on Xbox were a function of my leadership as Chief Xbox Officer – although I had many of the right instincts, I was simply too inexperienced to deal with the type and level of issues we faced on Xbox. Great leaders have to be self-aware of their own strengths (what I call super-powers) and weaknesses (kryptonite) and build a team around them that fills in identified gaps. The next level of leadership has to understand their roles and responsibilities well and translate that down through the team, consistent with the strategy framework that is driving the business. Just as with any sports team, there is no "correct" structure for a group – but everyone must know, accept, and perform their roles effectively if the team hopes to be successful. Great leaders identify weak team members or those that have not bought into the strategy/their role and either help them improve quickly or replace them. This is difficult work – both because it takes great judgement to know when to "hold 'em" and when to "fold 'em", and because the process of firing and replacing someone is emotionally challenging if you are a caring manager. And yet, the fact remains that there is quite often "addition by subtraction" and no team is much better than its weakest link.

3. Executing the Game Plan: A strong strategy framework with good team leadership is enough to get you to the starting line – but game-time performance is entirely a different matter. There are many teams that look good on paper but can't actually perform to expectations. Great communication is certainly a central element in establishing an operating rhythm that drives day-to-day excellence, because once the game begins, modifications and adjustments are a constant requirement. This is the football equivalent of an audible called by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage. If everyone on the field doesn't hear that the play has changed, the whole effort falls apart. Great execution is also about efficient and effective decision-making up and down the ladder of the team. If decisions can be pushed down into the organization where people closest to the issues can make the quickest and best decisions, the team has a much higher likelihood of success. In contrast, if everything must flow up the chain and back down again, as it often did in our early Xbox days, the likely result is either poor, uninformed choices or decision constipation. Finally, winning on the field is about continuous improvement. Teams that struggle at first can ultimately be successful if they keep making mid-course adjustments – changes in people, process, decisions, etc. Most projects are marathons not sprints and the secret to success is finishing strong and fast.

This sporting analogy and the discussion of teams applies across a broad cross section of organizations. The dynamics and culture of a business are certainly different than what you might find in a government agency, a community organization, or a non-profit. But the elements that make a great team and create an environment for success are similar in all of these cases. So whether your goal is renewing your business or joining me as a Civic Engineer trying to improve our local, state, and national civic organizations, building the right team is a critical element to success.

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Xbox Revisited
Robbie Bach, author of Xbox Revisited: A Game Plan for Corporate and Civil Renewal, joined Microsoft in 1988 and over the next twenty-two years worked in various marketing, general management, and business leadership roles, including working on the successful launch and expansion of Microsoft Office. As Chief Xbox Officer, he led the creation and development of the Xbox business, including the launch of the Xbox and the highly popular successor product, Xbox 360. He retired from Microsoft in 2010 as the President of the Entertainment and Devices Division. For more information please visit robbiebach.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:44 PM
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First Look: Leadership Books for September 2015

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in September.

  5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram
  Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time by Jeffrey Pfeffer
  What You Really Need to Lead: The Power of Thinking and Acting Like an Owner by Robert Steven Kaplan
  H3 Leadership: Stay Hungry. Be Humble. Always Hustle. by Brad Lomenick
  The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Age by Joseph Burgo

5 Gears Leadership BS Really Need to Lead H3 Leadership Narcissist You Know

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

discounted books

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 100 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”
— Edmund Burke

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:01 AM
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LeadershipNow 140: August 2015 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from August 2015 that you might have missed:
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:34 AM
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Fairness is Overrated

Fairness is Overrated
Fairness is Overrated is a solid leadership primer on what it takes to create a healthy culture day-in and day-out. Tim Stevens comes from a Church leadership perspective. However, his 52 principles are applicable anywhere because people are people with the same issues—only the peer pressure changes (unfortunately).

The 52 principles are organized around four key areas: Be a leader worth following, Find the right people, Build a healthy culture and Lead confidently through a crisis.

Stevens begins with “live a life with margins” and ends with the “five stages of failure.” Living a life with margin structured in not only helps all of the other leadership principles discussed here but it helps you move through the five stages of failure faster. So it’s a foundational principle.

A leader worth following has integrity. It’s about character. Knowing yourself and disconnecting is an important way to maintain integrity. You need to build space for what’s important.

Finding the right people—finding and developing leaders—is the most important thing his did as an executive pastor. “Here is what I believe to my core: the success of leaders will rise or fall based on the decisions they make about the people around them.”

When hiring people Stevens recommends not going solo. Get others involved. Chemistry is more important than skills, experience, or education. Use social media to “get to know” the people you are considering. Look for how they treat people they disagree with. Hiring too quickly leads to problems. Pay well. “You don’t want staff to join because of money. You don’t want staff to stay because of money. You don’t want staff to leave because of money.”

If you have a healthy culture, people are waiting in line to join your organization. A healthy culture is led by a leader who is not insecure about others succeeding. Gossip is not tolerated. Employees do life together; it’s not just a job.

In a healthy culture a leader turns over authority to others. Let your leaders lead. “No organization, church, government, or company can have a healthy culture and be run by a dictator, monarch, or single personality.” You need a strong team running the organization.

What Stevens is talking about here is humility. A toxic culture cannot be changed without it.

Leading confidently through a crisis means trusting the people you have in place to figure it out. A confident leader is not one that says, “I can figure it out” but one that says, “We can figure it out.” Having a great team in place is critical here. If you have found the right people and developed a healthy culture, then it becomes easier to lead confidently in a crisis.

These 52 principles are easier to implement if you have people who will speak truth to you. Again, humility is key here.

There is a lot to be considered in this book. It is well-written (a bit of a page turner) and you will want to go back again and again to see how you measure up.

And by the way, fairness is overrated. “Don’t confuse fairness with justice. Justice is about doing what is right. Fairness means everyone gets exactly the same thing.” It's about priorities.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:03 AM
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What Are Your Hidden Strengths?

Your strengths will get you in the door, but to make progress you are going to have to become more of who you are and draw on your hidden strengths.

Hidden strengths are not weaknesses. They are capacities you have that have yet to be recognized, developed and utilized. They become your Learned Strengths.

Your strengths and weaknesses need to be managed. Strengths need to be managed so that they are not overused or overbearing. Weaknesses need to be managed so that they don’t derail you. Often they can be delegated. But the area between the two—your hidden strengths—not only provide a deep pool of strengths to draw on but they will help you to smooth out your rough edges and bring into balance your natural strengths.

Hidden Strengths
Hidden Strengths, authors Thuy and Milo Sindell have identified 28 skills in four categories and made available a free Hidden Strengths Assessment at HiddenStrengths.com. The four categories are: Leading Self, Leading Others, Leading the Organization, and Leading Implementation.

Once you have identified your hidden strengths you can identify areas to focus on developing that would nullify a weakness or contribute to your success without directly attacking areas where you struggle. For example, Barry lacked emotional control and it was hurting his leadership capacity. He did have hidden strengths in the areas of resilience and flexibility. So instead of attacking his weakness, he developed his resilience and flexibility. In doing so he did not get so fired up that he lost control of his emotions. The authors note that “if he prepared ahead of time for meetings by formulating his ideas and alternatives, it make him more flexible when he listened to others’ ideas, and everyone would feel heard and understood.”

You are more than what naturally comes to you. There is much more that can be developed. “With awareness and dedication, you can leverage these Hidden Strengths to continually reach new levels of performance and success.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:54 PM
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