On Leadership and Reaching Beyond Wonder

Wonderment

Leadership is understanding the balance between the push for purpose and the need for action. Human beings are drawn to thoughts of what’s possible and what could be. We are built for a focus on a brighter future.

But a critical leadership skill is to the ability to link today’s actions to that possible future.

It’s an ongoing dance between helping people get excited about the wonderful future possibilities while not getting stuck in a “wonder” mode.

 Anchoring to the Future

Highly successful leaders are exemplary at creating a cultural anchor to aspirations for a better future. This is where the organization is successful as a result of a philosophy or guiding principle.  Successful leaders speak about it every chance they get.

Creating a culture where people are thinking about how to get things done through the lens of that philosophy is exemplified here:

  • Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.” ~ Tony Hsieh
  • Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel.” ~ Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kellarher
  • “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” ~The first of Google’s “10 things” (that are the foundation of their culture)

What all of these statements/sentiments have in common is they are guiding principles or the guard rails of how decisions are made in these organizations.

  • Nothing is done at Zappos that would ever undermine the customer experience.
  • Southwest will seldom hire someone that is not fun or has a good sense of humor.
  • Google won’t tolerate people that don’t abide by their “10 things.”

Leaders in these many other organizations work very hard to speak about and act on these principles or “purpose.” Each of their actions emanate from them.

So why isn’t it easy just to say things like this and every company turn into Zappo’s?  Don’t most organizations have “guiding principles” or Mission Statements?  Why don’t people just get on board and make it happen?

Linking Actions to that Future

Many  leaders don’t take the next logical step.  They forget to create causal links between the future they’ve been sharing and the actions necessary to take to get there.

There is a a tendency to believe that people should just understand why an action, task, or project is necessary to get to that intended future.  But the truth is they do not.  If leaders don’t intentionally make that causal link, then people will make up their own meaning.  Usually this meaning is neither powerful nor is it attached to an intended future.

This can lead to outcomes that are not in line with that intended future:

  • Irate customers – My wife’s recent interaction with a car dealership while trying to get a refund. She dealt with the folks from the “back office” until she wrote a letter to the owner of the dealership and put something out on Yelp that she got no service.
  • Lost sales – Ron Johnson’s failed strategy at JC Penny. SO many employees didn’t know how to act or what they were to do differently in the new paradigm.
  • Bad publicity – As evidenced by the recent recorded call regarding a customer trying to cancel their Comcast account

The list is really endless.  But the bottom-line is that when people don’t know how their role, action, task or project fits into the bigger picture, they are left to wonder.  The result is almost never that good.

So…

So what can a leader do?

A simple and direct method is to make sure that every role, task, or project links directly to the future that the leader has envisioned.

If the leader’s vision of the organization is to revolutionize how people buy clothing products on the internet by delivering the best customer service, then each process that is developed needs to be in line with that intention.

A Great Example

For example, the new employee training must be grounded in delivering a unique and powerful customer experience.  This training should be so intense that at the end of it people are given the opportunity to leave the company with pay.

You can imagine that the conversation about developing that new employee training was something like this:

“We need to create an on boarding experience that ensures the people we hire understand that every action they take should be in support of the customer experience.  At the end they should be able to determine if they see themselves in that future.

As opposed to this:

“Okay, we need to create an on boarding program that gets people in and out in about a week.  It should teach them all our most important processes and make them aware of our employee code of conduct.”

Leaders must not only create the vision of the future, but tie everything back to it. Without anchoring and linking, leaders can leave people in a state of wonder.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

When people are left in a state of wonder they do things like this:

I was checking out at a big box store with my elderly Mom and some small kids in tow.  A pair of $8 shoes I was buying rang up for $10.

I questioned the clerk on the price.

She said “No they rang up for $10. You can go back there and check it yourself.”

I wasn’t about to do that, so I just settled up for the $10 and left the store frustrated at the experience. Grrrrrr… 

When I got home, I pulled the shoes out of the box and guess what. The actual price tag on the shoes said $8! I was right all along! Grrrrrr… 

The next day I went back to the customer service department for a refund and happened to be waited on by the same sales clerk that insisted the shoes cost $10.

When I showed her the price tag on the shoes she said, “That wasn’t my fault; it was the cash register. I can’t help you.”

Uuuuummmmmmm………

The moral of this story: Don’t leave your team in a state of wonder.

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———————
Anil Saxena

Anil Saxena is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | TwitterWeb | Blog | (847) 212-0701

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On Leadership and Morning Routines

Businessman Breakfast

Hey Leader: Does Your Morning Routine Matter?

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs

Successful CEOs and business leaders have different ways of starting their days. Some depend on established routines, mapped out almost minute-to-minute, in order to extract the greatest productivity out of every day.

Others take a more chaotic approach, believing that winging it actually gets more done than some preordained system.

Top 3 Things in the Morning

The sheer variety by which CEOs and others start the day begs the question — does your morning routine really matter?

Yes, says corporate wellness coach Mike Iamele, and here’s why:

Three compelling reasons for a morning routine

  1. This is ideally the time to focus on yourself (there may not be another chance to do so all day). This is when you “consistently remind yourself that you’ve got to take care of yourself first before you can possibly be effective at helping others.” Those who adhere to a regular routine generally get more done because their morning routine acts as a reminder to first of all, take care of yourself.
  1. An established morning routine doesn’t have to be perfect — you don’t have to run five miles every day, your eggs don’t have to be perfectly cooked, etc. What truly matters is your willingness to get up and get moving according to a set pattern that propels you through the day. As Iamele says, “The fear of failure can’t hold you back, because if you do it every day, you’re inevitably going to fail once in a while. But that’s OK. You’ve got a routine, so you just get up the next day and do it again.”
  1. The previous day may have been difficult, overly demanding, even a bit traumatic. A solid morning routine acts as a “reset button” — a time to pause, meditate and shake yourself free of yesterday’s distress.

Breakfast Counts

Not everyone needs a big breakfast to get moving in the morning. But health experts generally agree some type of breakfast is important for your physical health.

If preparing breakfast seems to take too much time, consider doing some prep work the night before. Slice up the fruit you intend to eat and store it in the refrigerator. Set out dishes you plan to use. Do everything you can to hit the ground running come morning.

Keeping things simple is another no-nonsense approach. For many people, a cup of coffee and an oatmeal muffin will suffice — or some other easy option like yogurt with fruit, a frozen fruit smoothie or a peanut butter breakfast bar.

Exercise Makes a Big Difference

Exercising at the crack of dawn isn’t for everyone, but even a little bit of physical movement can help clear your mind for the day ahead.

The good news is you don’t have to do the same type of workout every day.

Running, push-ups, swimming laps — whatever you choose, some strenuous activity boosts your energy level and helps you stay charged and focused throughout the day.

Start the Morning the Night Before

Some business leaders incorporate a brief evening ritual into their daily routine. At the end of the day, for example, Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, writes down the three top things he intends to accomplish the following day.

He uses that list to get started in the morning.

Tackle the Hardest Stuff First

Once you’re in the office, don’t waste valuable creative time looking over emails or listening to voicemails. “In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day,” says Kevan Lee of Buffer.

Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage.”

A growing school of thought proposes that CEOs tackle their most challenging task or project at the beginning of the day. Proponents cite the fact that for most of us, the early hours of our workday are our most creative, energetic and productive (or have the potential to be). Why waste that precious time and energy on niggling administrative matters or chitchat with others that gets nothing done?

Corporate trainer Jennifer Cohen urges business leaders to start the day by focusing on what they least want to do.

Instead of anticipating the unpleasantness of it from first coffee through your lunch break, get it out of the way,” she says. “Look at this way, your day will get progressively easier, not the other way around.

What’s your tried-and-true morning routine? Do you have a favorite breakfast item to start the day? What’s the first thing you do when you get to the office? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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——————–

Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay
She serves in Sales, Operations, coordinating, and Business Development
Email |

Articles of Faith: Leadership, Legacy and Grasping the Wind

Leadership Double Glasses
This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series
here. Published only on Sundays.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23, NLT

A month ago I finally began to appreciate this proverb. A month ago, I died and was rudely shocked back to the operating table by a wonderful team of well-meaning surgeons. How were they to know that I was thoroughly enjoying the total peace and joy of having truly let go?

Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless–like chasing the wind. NIV Ecclesiastes 4:4

It took a heart attack and an all too brief visit to heaven for me to accept that anything I have been doing on this earth is no more than a striving after the wind.

But surely that wasn’t me. I wasn’t doing what I do for my success because I was envious. Surely, I had much better motives than that?

Some Context…

I should back up a little and give you some context:

I am a leadership coach and mentor, and the marketplace is my ministry. My mission is to impact lives, to be a lighthouse for people struggling to find meaning and direction in their careers and help them get in balance and make headway towards their own purpose and mission in life.

I love helping people and I’ve been working hard these past few years to expand the business and grow such that I can impact more lives. And perhaps you are beginning to notice what happens as soon as I talk about this. It’s all about me, and it’s all about doing.

Feeding on the Myth of Better

As I reflect on the months leading up to my taste of mortality, I realize that I had been striving to achieve something worthwhile, and I had chosen to feed on the myth that I had to be better, to do more, to compete to win in this world. I had unwittingly re-joined the rate race. I was on the hamster wheel of life running to keep up and falling down exhausted.

In the months prior to my heart attack, my thought life had been quietly and insistently repeating: “What are you going to do? What are you going to do?” All because I wanted to get on with things and stop wasting time.

I may not have consciously been competing enviously with other, more successful, and more spiritual people in my line of work. Even so, I did want to be known for doing it better, if I am to be completely honest here.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. Proverbs 3:5  (AMP)

Learning to Let Go

When was I going to realize that I am simply not smart enough to run my own life, let alone build this business and ministry into something that, in all humility, is a worthwhile legacy?

Trusting God. So often this is a last resort: “Well there’s nothing more I can do, all I can do now is trust God.” Proverbs 3:5 does not say, “…with a little bit of your heart”, nor “…rely on some of your own insight and understanding.”

Am I utterly barmy?

[Most] blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, and whose hope and confidence the Lord is. Jeremiah 17:7 AMP

I Want to Be a [Most] Blessed Man!

I’ll guess that you. Like me, have heard many wondrous testimonies of instant miracles, overnight turnarounds, miraculous healings and effortless overcoming of addictions. I love to hear them. And then my thinking starts to buzz inside like a mosquito in the bedroom: “Why God why? When God when?” Consciously, I chastise myself for such unchristian thoughts and repeat Proverbs 3:5 until I drown out that mosquito. Only for it to come back a little later just as I let my guard down.

If I can’t ‘guard’ my heart, perhaps I can ‘let not it be troubled’?

Jesus left me His peace (John 14: 27) and thus enabled me to “let not” my heart be troubled, nor be afraid. However, I still struggle to get comfortable not knowing when, why or where and just trusting God.

On REALLY Letting Go

It’s easy to tell someone to “let go.” I’ve shared this “wisdom” with many. But then I started to wonder how we actually can let go.

Before they shocked me back to the operating table, for a short while, I felt that peace and joy of having chosen to finally, and completely, let go. Oh, I cannot begin to describe how good it felt. For now though, it seems I am not finished here yet.

I didn’t struggle to completely trust the surgeons and staff at the hospital… Perfect strangers. I had no qualms about letting them be utterly in charge. Yet, in spite of the overwhelming evidence in my own life that He is always there, I keep taking the reins of control back from God.

I know Jesus will never leave me, nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). I know that when I keep my eyes on Him, everything works out for good (Romans 8:28). And then just like Peter (Matthew 14:29-30), I get distracted by the circumstances around me.

Distraction is a jealous seductress. It lures me away from my peace and sabotages my joy in rest.

Let Go, Let God

It is time to throw my own retirement party and let God.

Striving after the wind is all vanity. I will still strive. I will strive to enter that rest and not fall into the same disobedience as those in the wilderness by trusting in myself (Hebrews 4:11). I shall get comfortable not knowing what or how or where or when or why and trust Him. Pray for me.

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——————–
John Kenworthy

Dr John Kenworthy is Chief Success Officer at AdvantEdge
He serves clients with his Potential to Performance Success System
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook

 

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On Leadership, Lying and Breaking The Honor Code

When a large, trusted and well-established institution gets caught in a public lie, the entire code of honor is at risk of failure. Leading like this is poisonous to the entire entity and everything for which it stands. 

When honor is broken, what comes next?

How Emory University Failed Its Own Honor Code

The revelation (see related article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) by leaders at Emory University that a former Dean of Admissions had been supplying false data (lying) when reporting the SAT scores and Class Ranking of  incoming students has been a great disappointment to the city of Atlanta, and a revelation throughout the country.

If high-level leaders at a university renown for quality education and ethical values are violating the very basic rule of honor–tell the truth–then what must be going on elsewhere?

In fact, this is not the first revelation of such false reporting by a university trying to gain an edge in competing for annual rankings in sources like US News & World Report.

As in other professions, it appears that for some leaders, any means can be justified when the end goal has implications of gaining power, money, and influence or protecting their prestige or position.

Widespread Leadership Issue

We have become accustomed to seeing dishonorable leaders in politics–after all, they thrive on publicity and when they get in trouble, their high profile role makes them magnets for media attention.

But, when we learn that administrators from a highly regarded university are playing just as dirty as many back room politicians or businesspeople, we must conclude that the problem is deep and wide, transcending every profession at every level.

We should not be surprised; after all, we are all cut from the same cloth—we are fallible and flawed human beings.

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Living By Your Words

The Emory University honor code, as posted online, has as its very first point, “…the University community assumes high standards of courtesy, integrity and responsibility in all of its members.”  But we make a great mistake when we assume integrity, even our own.  Events such as this provide a reminder that we must know ourselves and regularly check our own moral compass.

“Trying to take the easy way based on fear is taking out good men and women at a rapid pace.  We all suffer each time one falls. We tend to become more cynical, and at the same time our cultural standards of right and wrong drop another notch.”

Every day we face decisions that have honor implications and we must regularly re-examine our commitments and behaviors.  Additionally, we need to regularly seek counsel from close comrades who have very high standards who will give us counsel on our questionable decisions.

The bottom line is that we can’t assume that we (or others) are above dishonorable behavior.

We are most at risk when we become afraid about what could happen. Trying to take the easy way based on fear is taking out good men and women at a rapid pace.  We all suffer each time one falls. We tend to become more cynical, and at the same time our cultural standards of right and wrong drop another notch.

Going Back to Our Foundation as Leaders

The foundation for living and leading with honor is courage.  Every day we will be faced with fears and temptations to take the easy way out.  Only with a commitment to a code of honor will we have the courage to choose to do the right thing, because the right thing is usually the hard way.

Remember, all discipline in the moment seems difficult, but in the end brings peace and true success.

Do you assume your integrity?  What are you doing to make this assumption a reality in your life?  Do you have someone with whom you discuss difficult decisions, someone who can give counsel based on high standards and an objective viewpoint?

I hope you will join in this discussion and share your experiences.  Do you agree that it’s dangerous to assume your integrity?  How do you manage this key area of your life?

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——————–
Lee Ellis


Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

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On Leadership, Anxiety and Stressful Decisions

Making Tough Decisions

So as a leader, do you feel like you are forced to make decisions much quicker and under more stress than you would like? Are you finding yourself in an anxious state when decision-time is near? And how do these decisions work out for you and your team?

Chances are that making great decisions while you are feeling anxious and stressed just might surprise you…

On Making Decisions

There is no escaping it: we all have to make decisions:

  • Some will be small and inconsequential whilst others will change the course of world history.
  • Some we can mull over and others must be instant; we may not get a choice.
  • The one thing we hope for is freedom to make decisions objectively based on best information and in a calm frame of mind.

But most often life is just not like this. We are faced with rapidly changing, high stakes emotionally charged decisions that fuel anxiety and over time cause emotional and physical stress.

Wouldn’t it be great to sit back let the anxiety subside and then decide? If you were a field commander faced with the possibility of being overrun by the enemy YOU DON’T HAVE TIME – DECIDE NOW!

“Neither comprehension nor learning can take place in an atmosphere of anxiety. ~Rose Kennedy

On Anxious Decisions

There is a strange but eventually understandable phenomenon where anxious decision makers are more likely to seek external advice, are less able to discern good from bad advice and will accept advice even from people with conflicts of interest. The greater the intensity of anxiety and stress the more driven to habitual and external advice we become.

Maturity is achieved when a person accepts life as full of tension.”  Joshua L. Liebman

Re-framing anxiety can free us from seeking questionable advice and making inappropriate habit-based decisions. Fear drives anxiety and when we misunderstand the physical sensations triggered by fear, excitement, uncertainty, time pressure and importance we view the decision from a skewed perspective.

On Living In Reverse

Well, the good news arising from the basic research of Soares and colleagues is that “Stress-induced changes in human decision-making are reversible.

For those of you with a neuroscience inclination the author’s general conclusion can be interpreted as “chronic stress biases decision-making strategies in humans toward habits, as choices of stressed subjects become insensitive to changes in outcome value“.

Using functional brain imaging techniques, they demonstrate prolonged exposure to stress in humans causes an imbalanced activation of specific brain networks governing decision processes.

Importantly and reassuringly, a longitudinal assessment of the stressed individuals showed that both the structural and functional changes triggered by stress are reversible and that decisions become again goal-directed once the stress is removed.

Stress As An Option

I can hear you saying something along the lines of, “but the stress never goes.” This may be true, but you can alter the way you perceive the stressors and adopt mitigating measures such as mindfulness meditation, yoga or tai Chi to offset the downsides of pressure and stress. All of these practices have been proven to reduce physical symptoms of stress.

Stress is an ignorant state.  It believes that everything is an emergency.”  Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind

Q: How can you re-frame your perception of anxiety generating situations? Let’s assume you can’t simply sit waiting for anxiety to subside or rely on advice or look for perfect solutions?

A: Don’t wait until you’re faced with high stakes instant decisions.

  • Start small and become accustomed to physically and emotionally sensing anxiety associated with small low impact decisions.
  • Appreciate the small buzzes you get next time you have to select from a complex menu, or your partner asks for a decision on which dress or suit they should buy. This is what I call “decision-making homeopathy.”

It gets you comfortable with the physical and mental sensations of anxiety. Then later up the stakes by taking notice of your reaction to decision-making in increasingly stressful situations until you know you can make decisions under heavy incoming fire.

Your objective isn’t to squash anxiety but to function effectively alongside it, doing what must be done.

If you don’t believe me then take a short while to watch Kelly McGonigal’s fantastic TED talkHow to make stress your friend” where she shows you that stress can actually protect you and help you live longer; it’s just how you view stress that matters.

Your Actions Today

  • On a scale of 1 to 10 rate your anxiety prior to, during and after today’s decisions?
  • Whose advice did you seek for today’s decisions?
  • Did this advice alter your decision?
  • How anxious do you feel others are when they make decisions (scale of 1 to 10)?
  • Did they seek you advice?
  • Did your advice bias their decision in your favour?
  • Did you make decisions based on habit or adaptation to new circumstance?

Recommended Reading

Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan by Francesca Gino

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——————– 
Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Web | Book

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Hey Leader: Is Negotiation Art or Science?

Art or Science

Every leader has to negotiate things. And they have to do this on a regular basis. So how is the best way to see this skill?

Is negotiation more of an art form that you get better at over time or a scientific formula that you can plug in and get results whenever you want?

The answer to that question is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. While there are items that every party will be after when negotiating a deal, there are also some factors to a successful negotiation that are unique to the other party in the deal.

Why Negotiation Can Be Seen as a Science

Negotiation may be seen as a science because there are actions that you can take to increase the odds of getting a good deal. For example, threatening to get up and walk away from the table can pressure almost anyone into making a concession.

This is because making that one concession may be easier than losing an entire deal and the money that may come with it.

Another tactic that may work on almost anyone is to imply that there are other offers on the table. The goal is to make the other person think that the other party can walk away and get the same or better deal elsewhere. If the other side thinks that the deal may be off the table or the terms will get progressively worse, the other side may jump at the offer even if it’s not the best possible deal for that side.

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Why Negotiation Can Be Seen as an Art

Negotiation could be seen as an art form because you have to use your words and body language to get the other party to overcome their objections. For example, if someone wanted to charge $50 an hour for their work and the other party only wants to pay $40 an hour, the party that wants more money will need to convince his adversary in negotiations that $50 is actually a bargain.

This can be done by arguing that paying less than the desired rate will achieve a less than desired result. It may also be possible to argue that paying the lower rate may make a project less of a priority for the party seeking the extra money.

For a top-tier professional, it may not be a big deal if one client walks away as he or she could have several more.

Therefore, the party that wants to pay less may ultimately cave because they want the best possible work from whomever is hired. In this way, the negotiation centers around who have the leverage and who is willing to use that leverage to set expectations and overcome objections.

How to Learn the Best Way to Negotiate

Whether an individual sees negotiation as a science or an art form, it is important to know how to negotiate to get what he or she wants from a given deal. The good news is that negotiation training classes may be made available for self-employed business people or through an employer if an individual wants to make him or herself more marketable to that employer.

By taking these classes, it will be possible to learn how to overcome objections, how to manage expectations and how to tell others what they want to hear to ultimately agree to a deal. The art of compromise will also be taught, which will help those negotiating a deal understand when it is a good idea to concede something in return for something that needs to be included in the final agreement.

Negotiating effectively is not always an easy thing to do.

This is because you have to establish your leverage, manage the egos of one or more other parties to a deal and make sure that you don’t overplay your own hand. This is why it may take many years to become a shrewd dealer who typically gets what he or she wants from others.

 

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———————
Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web

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On Ice Cream, Mushrooms, and the Three Ages of Leadership

Alexander the Great

Almost daily I see an article or post telling me leadership is situational. One size does not fit all, they say; we must adapt our leadership behavior to suit the context. Ken Blanchard is the original proponent of situational leadership, but the idea has been adopted by businesspeople everywhere.

Left mostly unexplored, however, is one of the most important contexts for a leader:  their age.

The Leadership Career

I’m not talking about chronological age, but rather the stage we’ve reached in our leadership career. Are we just starting out, perhaps a first-time project manager? Climbing through the ranks, seeking to build our influence across the organization? Or sitting at the peak of our powers (however defined), secure in the fact that at least a few bucks stop at our desk? Each stage has its requirements.

In the March 17, 2008, issue of Fortune, there’s an article by Stanley Bing called “The Seven Ages of Business.” It’s a parody of a Shakespearean soliloquy. In it, Bing scans the seven stages of a leader’s life, from “the tiny associate” all the way up to “the chairman, the bee at the center of the hive.”

It’s a terrific article, but I believe the ages of leadership can be compressed to just three: the New Leader, the Rising Leader, and the Tenured Leader. To understand these stages, let’s look at three great leaders of ancient times: their traits, their mottoes, and the foods they might have Instagrammed were they alive today.

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The New Leader: Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)

  • Peak decade: His twenties
  • Famous for: Setting off at age twenty to overthrow the Persian Empire, and succeeding; being one of the first leaders to think strategically about military campaigns and utilize inventive battle formations; gaining the fanatical loyalty of his troops by fighting alongside them and sharing their hardships.
  • Food he’d Instagram: Ice cream. Legend says he invented it. According to Plutarch, while on the march through cold countries Alexander would have his cook mix snow with wine and honey, thereby creating the first iced dessert. If the story is true, we have him to thank for a good chunk of the world’s happiness over the past two thousand years.
  • Character traits: Boldness, creativity, good humor
  • New Leader’s Motto: “Lean in.” For a new leader, Sheryl Sandberg’s advice is spot on. But don’t be a pushy jerk. Instead, be like Alexander: go first, think creatively, and lead by example. If you have an idea for color-changing ice cream, now’s the time to put it out there.

The Rising Leader: Julius Caesar (100-44 BC)

  • Peak decade: His forties
  • Famous for: Working his way up from obscurity; conquering Gaul and a few other regions; using a combination of military prowess, astute alliances, and self-promotional tactics to topple the Roman Republic and become the first supreme leader of Rome and all its territories.
  • Food he’d Instagram: Asparagus. At a banquet at the home of one of his allies, Caesar was served a dish of asparagus that had been mistakenly dressed with ointment instead of oil. He swallowed it with no sign of disgust and later chastised one of his retinue who complained. “He who reflects on another man’s breeding shows he wants it as much himself,” he said.
  • Character traits: Diplomacy, generosity, political savvy
  • Rising Leader’s Motto: “People first.” Caesar was a master of alliances and saw his supporters as his best and surest guard. Like him, rising leaders must take care to build coalitions at all levels and avoid ticking people off. Be prepared to eat some messed-up asparagus rather than insult your dinner host.

The Tenured Leader: Emperor Claudius (10 BC – 54 AD)

  • Peak decade: His fifties
  • Famous for: Being considered an embarrassment due to his limp, mild deafness, and stammer; surviving the purges of Tiberius and Caligula’s reigns; becoming Emperor of Rome at age 51; building roads, harbors, and aqueducts; conquering Britain.
  • Food he’d Instagram: Mushrooms. Canny and careful, Claudius managed to survive the murders and executions that decimated his extended family after the death of Augustus Caesar. Once he became emperor, however, it wasn’t so easy to fly under the radar. A dish of mushrooms—one of his favorite foods—was his undoing. Most accounts say they were poisoned by his wife, Agrippina, who wanted to ensure her son Nero’s succession to the throne.
  • Character traits: Integrity, judgment, circumspection
  • Tenured Leader’s Motto: “Look before leaping.” The biggest trap for a tenured leader is over-confidence. It doesn’t occur to us that our long-time favorite strategies might stop working or that our flatterers might not have our interests at heart. So, proceed with caution. Snarfing down that tasty dish of mushrooms could be a fatal error.

What stories do you have that illustrate the ages of leadership? What other mottoes would you propose for each stage? And which would you rather eat: ice cream, asparagus, or mushrooms?

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———————–
Jocelyn Davis

 Jocelyn Davis is Founder and CEO of Seven Learning
She is an Author, Speaker, and Consultant on Leadership Issues
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Image Sources: romandudes.com

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