Unlocking Leadership

Dust blows across the corral. We toe the dirt. Creative, even scary leadership development activities from the past float through my mind: blister-producing ropes exercise; speed-prep speech giving; psychometric leadership styles assessments; several 360s; cabaret solo-singing. Now, at a ranch outside San Francisco, I’m about to lead a horse. When psychologist Kurt Lewin released his groundbreaking research on leadership styles in 1939, I doubt he anticipated how leadership vernacular, assessments, workshops, and programs would proliferate. Catchy new labels for leadership styles emerge frequently and if we strip away the buzzwords, we find elements of the three core styles Lewin identified: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-Faire. Perspiration trickles down my back as the timed “Lead a Horse” exercise begins. One classmate decides she’s too terrified of horses to participate and leaves the arena. Another colleague pats and pets his horse, talks quietly, pulls on the reins, and nothing happens.  Flirtatious, the horse flips its mane as if to say, “come on, impress me big boy.” He belly-bumps and begs. The lady horse won’t budge. Colleague number three steps up, … [Read more...]

Leadership Guidance from the World’s Nicest Grown-Up

The "World’s Nicest Grown-Up," now that’s an enviable moniker. He's also been called the Dalai Lama of television, a Pied Piper, and even messianic. Think nice, sweater-addicts can't get ahead? With a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, and 40 honorary university degrees, his net worth was over $8 million when he died in 2003. Welcome to Fred Rogers’ neighborhood, a place where leaders mine solid gold. Mr. Rogers' 15 Lessons for Leaders 1. Want to achieve ultimate success? Be Kind. “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” 2. What to do in times of stress? Ask Questions, Listen With Heart. “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” 3. Think you can have it all? Nope. Make Choices. “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. ” 4. Want to grow your leadership? Embrace Problems. “It’s the very wrestling … [Read more...]

The 5 Breaks You Need to Succeed

break·through ˈbrākˌTHro͞o/ noun: a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development; an instance of achieving success in a particular sphere or activity Notice how the buzzword “breakthrough” is everywhere? Breakthrough thinking, breakthrough performance, breakthrough earning, breakthrough conversations, and my personal favorite: breakthrough diet pills that make or keep us thin while we lounge on the sofa eating as much of any ol’ thing we want. I googled "breakthrough" and "book titles." In seconds, nearly 14 million results popped up. Little wonder breakthrough is en vogue. It sounds so enticing, a secret unveiled, like winning the lottery or some starlet's big break. Some dramatic event that will take you from zero to hero or rags to riches; a sudden leap that will change you, and your life, forever. While you may sometimes wonder what it  would be like to win the lottery, I doubt you’re fooled with such magical thinking. Rarely will one breakthrough change the course of your life. There's no such thing as being an overnight success, just like there are no free lunches. Heavens, even lottery winners find that the breakthrough, the big break of winning … [Read more...]

Leaders, You’d Better Laugh

Want to learn something shocking? "The average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day. The average 40-year-old? Only four," writes Harvard professor Dr. Pamela Gerloff in "You're Not Laughing Enough, and That's No Joke." That's shocking! Zen Buddhists believe that if you start the day with a laugh, you’ll be fine the rest of the day. Maya Angelou, a wise woman if ever there was one, said "I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh." And a Yiddish proverb advises us, “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.” We all intuitively know that laughter is good for us, that it heartens us and strengthens us. We feel it when we laugh, the joy that pulsates through our bodies and tickles us to our very hair follicles. Global research confirms that our intuition (and "best medicine" proverb) about laughter is right on the nose. We need to take this seriously. Laughter & Health, Well-Being "Laughter is carbonated holiness." - Anne Lamott Stress Reduction +. Research has shown that laughter reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine; increases health-enhancing hormones (such as endorphins), neurotransmitters, and infection-fighting … [Read more...]

Five Francis-Catalyzed Leadership Reflections

Visiting a dear friend in Omaha recently, she shared something one of her Catholic priests mentioned to her, "He said that he was walking out of a restaurant one night, wearing his collar, and an apparently homeless woman stopped him and said, hey, I like your Pope." Once I got past the sense that this might have the makings of a great joke, and consternated about whether the priest had done something immediately to assist the woman (he didn't, at least according to the second-hand story), I realized that I was in radical agreement with the homeless woman:  I like Pope Francis' leadership thus far too. I'm not Catholic but I do recognize that popes are incredibly important global CEOs. Because how they lead matters to so many, it also matters to me. According to the Vatican, there are 1.2 Billion Catholics in the world today. In the U.S., 72.8 people self-identify as Catholics. His Holiness Pope Francis consistently speaks and acts as a leader. He’s called on Catholics (and us all) to battle the “globalization of indifference” and to be more compassionate, to champion the poor, and work to achieve social justice. Five Francis-Catalyzed Leadership Reflections 1. As CEOs, … [Read more...]

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