If you believe the old saying that you are the average of your five closest friends then you should also know that you, and them, are only as good as their tools. Everybody uses them and some use more than others but they are all there for a reason.
Today I want to share with you a few of my favorite leadership resources. These leaders all have unique perspectives and experiences that make them valuable assets for your toolbox. Here are their names and why I value them.
Simon Sinek’s works include “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Least”. He is also a renowned TED Talker and public speaker with a background in cultural anthropology. That background gives him a perspective relatively unique among most leadership experts these days.
His works come from a perspective that what we look for in leaders is a natural function of how we evolved. And, if you have read these books, he is likely right. I believe that is why the 25 fundamentals I write about work so well, they are naturally evolved markers. So, put these books in your toolbox.
Larry Winget goes by the nickname of Pitbull of Personal Development. And, if you have ever read anything of his you will understand why. He has a no-nonsense, no fluff and in your face style of relaying really amazing content.
His books include titles such as “Its Called Work for a Reason” and “Shut up, Stop Whining and Get a Life”. The titles are self-evident to their contents. He is a regular contributor to several media outlets and considered one of the world’s top leadership speakers.
If you are looking for a touchy feely experience, Larry is not your guy. If you want to hear it straight with no spin then you won’t be able to get enough of Mr. Winget. He is the hammer in your toolbox!
Richard Rierson is the mind behind the “Dose of Leadership” podcast. If you have not heard of it then you are missing out. Richard has accumulated some of the best interviews across all the podcasts and I absolutely love his signature question.
“If you were going to have a dinner party and could invite any five people, living or dead, who would you invite?” This is a brilliant question because you learn a lot about people by who they select in answering this question.
Dov Baron is an expert on building great teams and working with millennials. He has a great back story with a very interesting past set of experiences. Dov’s brand is centered around his “Full Monty Leadership” platform.
I suggest adding Dov’s new book, Fiercely Loyal to your toolbox. While you are at it be sure to add his podcast and catch up on his blog.
Jim Bouchard is known as the C Suite Sensei for a reason. He has a rough past that he has overcome in order to become a leadership expert. His teachings are deeply rooted in the martial arts teachings that helped him turn his life around.
Jim’s latest book, “The Sensei Leader“, is another great addition to your toolbox. It chronicles a lot of his journey and uses that as a backdrop for his leadership teachings. Full disclosure, I was lucky enough to do an advanced review that is in the front of this book so, yes, I am a little biased on this one.
If you add these resources to your toolbox, along with the leadership fundamentals I talk about here, you will have everything at your disposal to be a more successful leader. I hope you enjoy reading their works as much as I do. If you have more suggestions feel free to include them in the comments section below.
In a previous article I discussed why people often struggle in new leadership roles so in this article I would like to focus on how to successfully assume a leadership role. The timing of this article is perfect in that I have a great example handy. Last week there was a change in command for the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps and incoming General Neller wasted no time in giving clear guidance as to what the organizational focus would be under his command. He did so in a message to all Marines that contained six sections. This message, in my mind, is a great example of the universality of leadership fundamentals, and you will see several of them mentioned through the message.
Okay, first the jargon clean up before you read the original message. A “FragO” is simply a fragmented order. It is a piece of the larger order being developed that is released to keep the organization moving forward. And, CPG stands for the Commandant’s Planning Guidance which, like it sounds, is how the Commandant plans to lead. Now, for the rest of the message I will ask you to replace the military specific words with more civilian friendly words. Think of the Commandant as the leader. Think of war as competition. Think of the enemy as competitors. When he talks about cutting edge weapons technology think of cutting edge technology relevant to your business. There are many direct correlations from the military to civilian world.
Please read A Message from the Commandant and see my breakdown below.
“All previous guidance remains in effect”
A change in leadership is usually a time of uncertainty for everyone involved. The team doesn’t know how the new leader will lead and the new leader doesn’t know how the new team will follow. Trust hasn’t been established and that takes time. So, a great course of action is to come in and change as little as possible.
This will allow for a smoother transition as you move from old plan to new plan. Also, remember we are dealing with people and their emotions. There may be some lingering loyalty to the old leader. By acknowledging and honoring them you can tap into a little of that a boost your own loyalty and trust factors.
“Like war itself, our approach to war fighting must evolve”
Again, acknowledge past efforts but lay a clear path for future change. Don’t make people feel like everything they have done has been a waste because you know better. On the other hand you must acknowledge the need for change and progress in order to stay relevant under your leadership.
“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack”
This section stresses the importance of the entire team. Leaders are only as good as their followers and followers only as good as their leaders. Both have their roles and stressing that from day one is an excellent approach. It may be a new concept to the team or, in the case of the Marines, a well established one. You cannot afford to make the wrong assumption so stress your thoughts on teamwork and its importance immediately.
“The senior is obligated to provide the guidance and the example that allows subordinates to exercise proper judgment and initiative. This includes providing a clear mission and intent… what to do, not how to do it.”
While it is true your leaders are in their positions because they have proven their worth it is still a good idea to set your expectations for them. Define what you see their success looking like. Give them criteria and guidance but don’t give them orders.
Now, when you read the message your first instinct may have been, “What? I thought Marines were all bout giving and following orders?” Well, that is only partially true. Very rarely are orders clear-cut, step by step. What Gen. Neller is talking about, and what you should learn from this is called “Commanders Intent.”
See, orders usually come in the form of telling a team to meet a certain objective and not the step by step process to get there. This leaves the team with latitude to employ their expertise to achieve the objective the most efficient and effective way possible. If you do that for your team then you will have a top-tier team. It may take them time to get used to that new-found freedom so give them time to adjust and grow.
“The subordinate agrees to act (with discipline, respect and loyalty) and not exceed the proper limits of authority.”
This section is very similar to the last. It sets the expectations and defines success. This one is just success from the angle of the follower.
“Human will, instilled through leadership, is the driving force of all action in war.”
Okay, this section is full of wisdom for how few words there are. The essence of it is that too often we get focused at being the best in a certain area but ignore others. When the truth is we need to focus on several areas of excellence. Zig Ziglar referred to this as “The Wheel of Life.” Just like a real wheel, when one section is flatter than another you will get some turbulence in your ride. If you work on them all and keep them as close as possible then life will go much smoother and you will be capable of achieving more.
Powerful message, huh? Through the course of the message General Neller acknowledged his predecessor, set clear organizational guidance and defined what success looks like for the role of leader and subordinate. His approach and communication generates an expectation of continuity of operations along with the idea that change will also be happening out of necessity.
Those are all key factors you should strive to hit when you assume a leadership role. Change is rough to begin with so don’t make it worse by creating more uncertainty and needless animosity. Remember, the outgoing leader had a vision and a connection to your team. Don’t begin by bashing them and blowing up the vision just because you can. Let your tenures flow together as seamlessly as possible for a smooth transition.
Also, define your vision and why you are setting it along with why it is important to the team and organization. Connect to the organizational loyalty which will likely be stronger than any you have in the beginning. And, don’t forget to define success and how to achieve it. Give guidance to get there but don’t order them how to get there. Let them surprise you with their accomplishments instead of restricting them to your ideals.
This message is best delivered in person but any method will work. The key is you must have this conversation for your sake and the team’s. If you do, then you will be able to successfully and easily assume the new leadership role.
Technological excellence through leadership and core values is the goal of any organization that hopes to be successful. So, it is no surprise that some of America’s tech firms are not only leading the way in life altering innovation but they are blazing news trail in organizational leadership. From thought leadership to cultural leadership these organizations are changing how the world views everything. But the question is, “How do tech organizations achieve excellence through leadership?
Apple changed how we view phones. Facebook changed how we socialize. Amazon changed how we shop. Microsoft changed how we use computers. Oracle changed how we network. IBM changed how we compute. Google changed how we find information.
They all did this thanks to two simple yet amazingly strong words, Core Values. You see, core values are much more than buzzwords. They are anchors to your organizational goals and culture. They define everything you are and more importantly what you are not. Now, thankfully for us I don’t have to reinvent the wheel on this topic. Our friends at MidAmerica Nazarene University have done a wonderful job of researching and presenting the data needed to support my statements in their article titled, Nothing Less Than Excellence: How organizational Leadership Informs the Core Values of Top Tech Firms.
Two titans, opposite corners
I will let you read the entire article but I wanted to highlight two the values from Apple and Microsoft and their leaders. Nobody will argue against these two being leaders, both the companies and the men who ran them, in computers and technology. These organizations have went head to head for a very long time. Sometimes Apple will win and others Microsoft took the day. They have both been led by very strong leaders who possessed very different leadership styles than most large, high-value organizations were led by in their day.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were always, at the same time, identical and vastly different. Nothing captures that than their personal beliefs. You see, Bill Gates’ philosophy is more of a, “fail early and fail often,” approach. In fact he famously challenged his employees to fail nine times a year so the tenth time would be an amazing success. It wasn’t because he loved failure. He felt there were amazingly valuable lessons in failures and he would be correct. As I wrote here, the only bad mistake is one you make twice. But, the only way to know it is a mistake is to try it and realize that fact.
Now, Steve Jobs was the opposite. He believed in passing up on distracting opportunities to stay focused on Apple’s goals and mission. He wanted to do a few things very well and do them better than anyone else was doing them. He knew technology didn’t have to be ugly, boxy and hidden in a basement. Technology, he felt, could be wonderful, elegant and accessory to your every day life. That is why the evolution to the Apple Watch makes sense for Apple. And because it makes so much sense for Apple, people barely remember Samsung tried to beat them to the punch last year.
These men dominated their industries and built legacies that will last well into the future and they key to that lies in their values and organizational leadership. You see, maybe more so than any of the others on the list, these two were perfect for their respective companies. I firmly believe Apple would have struggled under Bill Gates and Microsoft would have under Steve Jobs. They wouldn’t have failed, just struggled to find their identities that we know today.
Leaders, cultures and results are that intimately linked.
In closing this entry I would like to thank MidAmerica Nazarene University for your hard work put into the article. I enjoyed reading it and found it very thought-provoking. Keep up the great work!
Effective organizational structure can be displayed graphically using the tree diagram in this post. You can clearly see three main areas, the root system, the trunk and the fruits of your efforts. Let’s discuss these areas a little more in-depth.
The Root System
The root system for your organization is just like the root system in a real tree. It anchors and strengthens your overall structure which allows you to overcome adversity easier. Also, it feeds the trunk, you and your leaders, which passes that on to your team which bears the fruits of your efforts.
As you can see, the root system is extremely important and requires the most work, especially early on in the organization. Investing the appropriate amount of time in developing culture, core values and mission statements and nurturing them along as the organization grows is one of the best return on investment items you will ever make.
You will find that the stronger your roots the easier adversity is to handle. This is true for a few reasons. First, you are grounded in the “who, what and why” of the organization and that all tells you how to operate. So, your decisions on how to handle situations are already, mostly, made up due to this understanding. Second, your team knows all this as well so how you handle it should not be a surprise to them either. Third, your strong trunk emanates from these same roots so your leaders will be able to comfort their teams when the necessary decisions are made.
The trunk is your organization’s leadership. Yes, that includes you. The job of the trunk is to take the nurturing content from the root system to the branches that are your various teams. Like strong trees; strong organizations have nice, relatively straight, thick trunks of leadership that keep their teams in contact with the root system and pass the foundational principles on to them. This is better known as communication.
Think of communication as the sap of the tree. It contains all of the important information for making the organization run smoothly and in accordance with the overall culture and shared purpose. It should circulate throughout the tree from the roots to the trunk to the limbs and it finds its way into the product. And, remember, just like in a real tree, when the sap stops flowing to an area that area begins to suffer. If that flow continues to be restricted the area will eventually shrivel up and die.
Leaves and Fruit
Now, what good is a tree without its leaves and fruit? We tend to call those trees dead and/or rotting. In this scenario leaves and fruit represents your team members and your product. Your team is a product of how well they are nurtured from the root system up. If those systems are running effectively then you will see strong, healthy and vibrant leaves. What is the purpose of leaves?
Leaves are another source of energy for the entire tree. They take energy from the surrounding world and turn it into a usable product for the organization. This energy comes in a lot of forms. It can be as simple as a customer service interaction or as complicated as a game changing tech roll-out. The point is that it is captured and the organization is fed and sustains itself while producing fruit. Okay, so what is the purpose of fruit?
Fruit is the trees product. But, this product has a kick because each one contains a seed that has the potential to spread the DNA of the organization. If your organization is running properly and the sap is doing its job of carrying the foundation principles through the tree, all the way to the leaves, then you will produce strong fruit with seeds that have a higher chance of taking root in their final destination.
Organizations crave excellence. If your organization is operating with that excellence then it gets noticed in how you handle every aspect of your business. Your product is a reflection of that so, as your product spreads you are spreading the “who, what and why” of your organization. As other organizations become familiar with that and see a strong organizational culture backed up by a clear understanding of your values and mission coupled with a strong leadership trunk that feeds and nurtures its teams through complete communication in order to deliver an impeccable product you stop being just an organization. You become a top-notch example that, in some cases, even your competitors will look to for advice. When you achieve this you go from being an example to becoming a legacy.
Keeping with the tree theme; you have pine trees, you have oak trees and then you have giant redwoods. Your organizational goal should be to become a redwood.