Servant Leadership Before It Was A Buzzword

Yoda I was. It was July at the county fair in the early 80s, and I was about 11. The thick, rubber Yoda mask and long woven robe were almost unbearable in the mid-summer heat, but I had a job to do. Who better than the omniscient Yoda to attract fairgoers to the American Cancer Society booth to learn about breast cancer screenings and early detection? There, the ACS volunteers, and my dad, would be waiting. Dad joined the American Cancer Society in 1969 as a program director in the Cincinnati, Ohio unit.  He met my mom, a nurse with the Cleveland ACS unit, and less than a year later they were married. After stints in Wisconsin and Missouri, Dad came to Nebraska to lead ACS in 1975, and at 32 was the youngest state Executive Vice President in the history of the Society. While in Nebraska, he brought Daffodil Days, the ACS Cattle Baron’s Ball (now the Cattlemen’s Ball of Nebraska) and Relay for Life, to the state. In 1995, Dad was hired as the CEO of the ACS Ohio Division, and retired on December 31, 2009 – at the helm of two states for almost 35 years and the longest serving CEO in ACS history. The funny thing is, you won’t find my dad’s name on the Cancer Survivor’s Park … [Read more...]

A Little Magic Can Take Leaders A Long Way

Last week I heard myself give a textbook answer to the question, “What’s the difference between leaders and managers?” I won’t bore you by sharing what I responded because even if you don’t read as many articles and books on leadership as I do, you’d intuitively sense that there must be more to truly great leaders. After my acceptable answer popped toad-like from my lips, I almost immediately started reflecting upon what my authentic, deeper answer is, the answer that I didn’t have the courage or quick-thinking capacity to state at the time: Truly great leaders give us permission to believe—and the constant support to act upon the belief—that the impossible is possible, that magic can happen.” I suspect that we’ve all experienced stage magician-type leaders, leaders skilled at misdirection and charismatic manipulation. Those leaders may give us the temporary high that mystery brings. But from my study of truly great leaders, while all are flawed human beings, they seem to tap into a piece of us that believes in magic. As Roald Dahl, author of James and the Giant Peach wrote, “A little magic can take you a long way.” How about bringing some magic into your … [Read more...]

Shifting Your Lens

At the risk of setting off a Geek Alert:   I read Popular Science magazine. In a past issue Erin Biba’s article, “Not Just the Facts,” really touched a nerve. Biba explains that we largely favor scientists whose conclusions match our own existing beliefs. Think U.S. Climate Change debate. Otherwise rational people, it seems that “selective perception” rules us – if we let it. Walter Lippmann, a Pulitzer-winning journalist and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient in 1964 said, “We do not first see, then define, we define first and then see.” Bibi makes me want to add "hear" to Lippmann’s statement. Being Human Means Using Selective Perception Selective perception is very human. We put facts through a personal lens that is so influenced by our own beliefs, our own worldview, that even in the face of incontrovertible evidence we’ll distort what we see and hear to conform to what we expect, what we already believe. Bias, stereotypes, or just plain mindlessness – selective perception can hurt us. It can limit how well we connect with others. Our decision-making capacities might be hampered. It may stop us from reaching our full potential, our joy in … [Read more...]

5 Practices to Cure Worst Criticitis

“Oh @*#+!” I berate myself just prior to taking a trip recently. Why did I put off some work I wanted to get done before leaving? Why did I wait until the last minute to buy gifts I wanted to take with me? “Oh joy! You procrastinated,” proclaims my meanie-in-mind, “I get to run wild right now!” My meanie-in-mind uses words like "always" and "never." It lies glibly and smoothly. It takes its show on the road too. No doubt about it, procrastination exposes the worst critic I have: ME. Worst Criticitis If we're honest with ourselves, we may find that we're procrastinating to create situations that give us a rush of adrenaline and a chance to feel super successful:  Procrastination, after all, generates a problem that we then get to solve.  There are a zillion pieces of advice on time management, on doing what's important not what's urgent. I love the thought of saying "no" to free up my time to say "yes" to what really matters most. But if you're anything like me, the real danger procrastination presents is not that you don't get things done, that you don't produce great results. The danger is that procrastination promotes 'Worst Criticitis,' a term I'm coining to … [Read more...]

Lead With Kindness: You’ll Get Better Results

What happens when we put kindness at the center of our leadership? There's plenty of hard evidence that kind leaders get better results. Emma Seppala, Ph.D, a Research Scientist at Stanford University and the Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, details several studies in Being a Kind Boss Pays Off: A kind leader may actually be good for "followers" hearts. In fact, a study out of the Karolinska Institute conducted on over 3,000 employees found that a leader’s qualities were associated with incidence of heart disease in their employees. Employees feel greater trust with someone who is kind. Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy and her research partners have also shown that leaders who project warmth—even before establishing their competence—are more effective than those who lead with their toughness and skill. Why? One reason is trust. Employees are inspired by kindness. Jonathan Haidt at New York University Stern School of Business shows in his research that when leaders are self-sacrificing, their employees experience being moved and inspired. As a consequence, the employees feel more loyal and … [Read more...]

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