Have a Heart: Leadership With Heart

So many of you already know my leadership mantra. 


It’s all about:

Leadership With Heart


That means understanding that workers are human beings. 


Yes, they should act as professionals.


But also, they are people with imperfections and problems.


Whether they are fighting addiction, debt, illness, mental health issues, family problems, abuse, or personal loss. 


Life happens.


And it’s not always pleasant. 


Unfortunately, it seems like we are tested all the time. 


Therefore, good leaders, real leaders…lead with heart. 


They focus on the mission, but also empower, develop, and have empathy for the people. 


Think of the people you know in leadership positions today. 


Are they leaders with heart or heartless sons of guns. 


Who do you want to follow into the future?  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Warnings: When It’s Not Just “Crying Wolf”

Warnings

There is a famous saying that “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana

An editorial appeared in the Wall Street Journal (10 April 2012) by French philosopher Pascal Bruckner called The Ideology of Catastrophe” that accuses those who warn others of danger as having “tiny minds who wish us suffering.”

This “philosopher” maligns both Jewish prophets and Christian “millenarian movements” for having “no function other than indignation…and [the Prophet] becomes intoxicated with his own words and claims a legitimacy with no basis.”

Mr. Bruckner must be completely clueless of those throughout history that have sought to warn us of dangers that if the world would but have listened, untold numbers of millions could have been saved.

From the earliest of times, there have been warnings about pending catastrophes and those that paid attention were able to make a difference.

In the Torah (Bible), G-d warned Noah of the impending flood, and Noah was able to save humankind and animals–2 by 2 they went unto the ark for 40 days and nights of pouring rain that vanquished the earth.

In the Prophets, G-d has Yonah (after being swallowed by the whale) warn the the inhabitants of Nineveh to repent and prevents them and their city from destruction.

In the 20th century, if only the world had paid attention to the genocidal desires of maniacs like Adolph Hitler (may his name be cursed) in books like Mein Kampf, how many tens of millions may have been spared.

In terms of the advent of nukes and other weapons of mass destructions, to at least some extent people and governments have listened to warning and retreated from a philosophy of mutually assured destruction (MAD) to instead move toward anti-proliferation, arms reduction treaties, and other safeguards, and we have thank G-d been able to avoid major catastrophes from these dangers.

Thankfully, with dire medical issuances about various diseases, pandemics, and even warning about the dangers of obesity, smoking, and drinking, we have been able to curb harmful behaviors, promote healthier living, and lengthen life spans.

Similarly, with environmental warnings, we have been able to create awareness and educate people on more sustainable living–through conservation, recycling, reuse, as well as renewable energy sources, and more.

Moreover, warnings about runaway spending and the national deficit have been heard for decades, but having ignored these for the most part, we now face a $16,000,000,000,000 bill and growing rapidly–soon coming due to future generations of Americans.  And we are already witnessing the effects–inflation, unemployment, default, and perhaps succession from the Euro and the EU itself–of countries on the other side of the Atlantic that have made the similar errors in their wild spending ways.

While some corporate, religious, and political leaders do use fear tactics to gain power or whatever they are personally-seeking that does not make every warning false and malevolent.

Certainly, at the other end of the spectrum, some people would rather live in denial of any issues and pretend that everything is just hunky-dory all the time.

Bruckner does makes some superficial and one-sided arguments–denouncing warnings and claiming that:

– Warnings cause fear, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

– Warnings “though they try to awaken us…eventually deadens us.”

– People who warn “do not [really] intend to warn us as much as to condem us.”

– Leaders issue warnings “to dazzle us in order to make us docile.”

Unfortunately, Bruckner has failed to distinguish between fear-mongering and fact.

Bruckner missed the point of how real warnings can help people–which is through changing hearts, minds, and behaviors.

1) Fear is not a self-fulfilling prophecy unless people do not act in time to change dangerous and irresponsible behaviors.

2) Genuine warnings do not deaden those who seek truth and a way forward–it only deadens those who are unwilling or unable to adapt.

3) People who warn based on facts and with sincerity to help others do not wish to condem us–rather they wish to alleviate unnecessary suffering.

4) Leaders who issue warnings to alert people to very real dangers out there in order to seek safety or change course are not trying to dazzle and make docile, but rather they seek to save lives by creating awareness, educating, and empowering people to change before it is too late.

Some people understand well from history as well as from common sense that our behaviors have consequences–other do not.

For me, when we stray into dangerous waters, I am glad for the true heros out there looking out for us and helping guide us live better and longer lives.

While it is good to be critical of unfounded warnings and charlatans, it is necessary to have warnings that are grounded in fact, given sincerely, not forced on others, and help people stay successfully on the road to health, prosperity, and human rights.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Alex Peruso)

Innovation: Leaders vs. Liars

Innovation

There’s a big difference between doing something and saying you’re going to do something.

Or as I learned early on–words are cheap, but actions speak loud and clear.

The Wall Street Journal (23 May 2012) reported this week about how many companies (and even academic institutions) overuse the word innovation–“the introduction of something new.”

It’s practically become cliche–“chief innovation officers, innovation teams, innovation strategies, and even innovation days.”

So is innovation just the buzzword du jour or is ultimately something more?

Of course, the more we use something like the term innovation, the greater the chance to dilute its meaning.

– “33,528–times [innovation] was mentioned in quarterly and annual reports last year.”

– “255–books published in the last 90 days with innovation in the title.”

– “43%–of 260 executives who said their company has a chief innovation officer.”

However, innovation is not just a word to throw around and use lightly–innovation is our bread and butter in this country; it is what differentiates us from our global competitors (i.e. its one of our main competitive advantages) and is a source of our economic strength.

Not all innovation is created equal–there is “innovation lite” (my term), where we take something and make it better, faster, or cheaper, and then there is “disruptive innovation”–where we really bring something new to the market.

“Everybody’s innovating because any change is innovation,” but not every innovation is transformative.

We can’t afford for innovation to lose its meaning, because leaders and companies that abuse it and dilute it–and don’t ultimately deliver–will end up losing their jobs and ultimately the companies themselves.

Real innovation is like condiments, use it sparingly and it can pack a huge punch–pour it on indiscriminately, and you might as well just throw away the whole dish.

What we need are innovation leaders that don’t just mouth the words and buy the toys, but champion it, invest in it, and empower and encourage their employees to make it happen.

Innovate or die is our reality–so be a true innovation leader–don’t lie to yourself if it isn’t the real thing. 😉

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Seth Waite)

Making Change Probable

One_foot_in_front_of_the_other

An article this week in the Wall Street Journal (15 May 2012) called us “a nation of whiners.”

 

The national insult aside, what was more important was that the author lamented that whining doesn’t help, but problem-solving does!

 

According to the article, whiners can be treated therapeutically by:

 

1) Mirroring–letting people see/hear themselves in this state of learned helplessness.

 

2) Challenging–confronting whiners and asking them what they are going to do about their situation.

 

3) Encouraging–providing positive reinforcement when people make positive steps to taking control of their lives.

 

Similarly, there are those who get stuck in a sort of professional rut, complaining about the status quo, but they have trouble working incrementally to try and change things.

 

A strong leader can help their people move on from the status quo, applying the therapeutic techniques above, but also by doing the following:

 

1) Inquire–talk with your people and find out what they think is working, isn’t, and how things can be improved.

 

2) Envision–together, set a vision for a better future that addresses people’s genuine concerns in the aggregate.

 

3) Empower–delegate specific actions so everyone can be a part of the solution; give them the authority along with the responsibility to make change possible.

 

4) Observe–monitor progress and review whether the changes being made are having a positive impact and where adjustments in strategy need to be made.

 

These are really fundamental leadership skills, but applied to people who are feel helpless, hopeless, or are just plain resistant to change, the key is how we exemplify forward momentum and help others feel they too can make a genuine difference.

 

Bad situations are generally not life sentences, if we can but imagine positive change, break it down into incremental steps, and then put one foot in front of the other, and we are on our way.

 

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Rifqi Dahlgren)

 

>Optimizing Culture For Performance

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Interdependence

Strategy + Business (Spring 2011) has an interview with Edgar Schein, the MIT sage of organizational culture.

In it, he describes why it is so hard to change this.

In my experience, organizational culture is key to success.

Why do we want to change organizational culture to begin with?

Sometimes it becomes dysfunctional and can get in the way of performance.

Sometimes, leaders think they can simply change a culture, but Schein disagrees. He says that you cannot simply introduce a new culture and tell people to follow it–“that will never work.”

Instead you have to…solve business problems by introducing new behaviors.”
However, you cannot solve problems or even raise concerns where “in most organizations the norms are to punish it.”

Schein states that “the people with the most authority…must make the others feel safe”to speak up, contribute, and even make mistakes.

Schein goes on to call for people “to work with one another as equal partners“–breaking down the traditional organizational boundaries–so that we stop telling people, so to speak, that “you’re in my lane” or “that’s above your pay grade.”

He goes a step further, stating that the healthiest work cultures are interdependent, meaning that people actively try to help one another solve problems.

What an enormously powerful idea, that everyone has something valuable to contribute. Every opinion contributes to the dialogue–and all employees are worthwhile.

That is my definition of a healthy culture, for the organization and its people.

>Essential Leadership Do’s and Don’ts

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Below is a list of my top 15 recommended leadership attributes and the do’s and don’t for these.


For example, in managing people—do empower them; don’t micromanage. For supporting people—do back them; don’t undermine them. In terms of availability-do be approachable; don’t be disengaged. And so on…

While the list is not comprehensive, I believe it does give a good starting point for leaders to guide themselves with.

Overall, a good rule of thumb is to be the type of leader to your staff that you want your supervisor to be to you.

Common sense yes, but too often we expect (no, we demand) more from others than we do from ourselves.

This is counter-intuitive, because we need to start by working and improving on ourselves, where we can have the most immediate and true impact.

Now is a perfect time to start to lead by example and in a 360-degree fashion—because leadership is not a one-way street, but affects those above, below, and horizontal to us.

If we are great leaders, we can impact people from the trenches to the boardroom and all the customers and stakeholders concerned. That’s what ultimately makes it so important for us to focus on leadership and continually strive to improve in this.

>Political Capital and the CIO

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Leaders wield power through many means: formal authority, control of scarce resources, use of structures, rules, and regulations, control of decision processes, control of knowledge and information, control of technology interpersonal alliances and networks, and so forth. (Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan).

But one often-neglected factor when it comes to power is likeability, sometimes known as political capital: the late President Ronald Reagan was the epitome of this.

“Political capital is primarily based on a public figure’s favorable image among the populace and among other important personalities in or out of the government. A politician gains political capital by virtue of their position, and also by pursuing popular policies, achieving success with their initiatives, performing favors for other politicians, etc. Political capital must be spent to be useful, and will generally expire by the end of a politician’s term in office. In addition, it can be wasted, typically by failed attempts to promote unpopular policies which are not central to a politician’s agenda.” (Wikipedia)

Every leader (including the CIO)—whether in the public or private sector—manages to get things done in part through their political capital.

For the CIO, this means that while their job is certainly not a popularity contest, they cannot effectively get things done over the long term without rallying the troops, having a favorable image or degree of likeability, and generally being able to win people over. It’s a matter of persuasion, influence, and ability to socialize ideas and guide change.

The CIO can’t just force change, transformation, modernization. He/she must expend political capital to move the organization forward. The CIO must make the case for change, plan and resource it, train and empower people, provide the tools, and guide and govern successful execution.

The Wall Street Journal, 4-5 October 2008, has an editorial by Peggy Noonan that touches on the importance of political capital:

“Young aides to Reagan used to grouse, late in his second term, that he had high popularity levels, that popularity was capital, and that he should spend it more freely on potential breakthroughs of this kind or that. They spend when they had to and were otherwise prudent…They were not daring when they didn’t have to be. They knew presidential popularity is a jewel to be protected, and to be burnished when possible, because without it you can do nothing. Without the support and trust of the people you cannot move, cannot command.”

Certainly if the President of the United States, the most powerful position in the world, cannot execute without political capital, then every leader needs to take note of the importance of it—including the CIO.

Lesson #1 for the CIO: effective leadership requires political capital duly earned and wisely spent.