The Leadership Attribute That No One Is Talking About But Every Leader Needs

Last week I had lunch with an executive team following my speech at their leadership conference. One of them asked, “In your opinion, what is the most important leadership attribute?” I said, “My answer will probably surprise you because it is a leadership attribute that nobody is talking about but every leader needs – I think it is meekness.” He questioned me – “Meekness?!” You see, meekness is crucial but it’s misunderstood. Robert Wells said, “We don’t usually think of successful executives as meek; nor can we accept the idea of a “meek,” successful quarterback on a winning football team. In fact, to us, success in anything seems to involve quite the opposite. In the minds of many, meek means being submissive, passive, retiring, placid. Their mental image of a meek person is that of a compliant “doormat” who is so timid and unassertive that he accomplishes nothing, seeks nothing,
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A Sobering Thought for Leaders

Yesterday I spoke to 100 Power Plant Managers in Minnesota. We had an engaging conversation around leadership and influence and how to gain the commitment of our people. After my speech one of the leaders shared a lesson he always tries to keep top of mind. Years ago when he was first promoted to manager, his boss pulled him aside and said, “Now that you are someone’s boss, I want you to always remember that the children of your people will know who you are and what kind of leader you are.” He said he automatically remembered that his Dad’s boss was Greg Anderson and although he never met him he knew he was a terrible leader because his dad complained about him every night at the dinner table. He determined that he would be known to his team’s children as a great leader. He would be known as a
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Leadership Is Spelled E.X.A.M.P.L.E.

Over 200 years ago, a man in civilian clothes rode past a small group of tired and battled weary soldiers. They were digging what appeared to be an important defensive position. The leader of the group wasn’t making any effort to help. He just shouted orders and threatened to punish the group if the work wasn’t completed within the hour. “Why aren’t you helping?” the stranger asked on horseback. “I’m in charge! The men do as I tell them,” said the leader. He added “Help them yourself if you feel so strongly about it.” To the mean leader’s surprise the stranger got off his horse and helped the men until the job was finished. Before he left the stranger congratulated the men for their work, and approached the confused leader. “You should notify top command next time your rank prevents you from supporting your men – and I will provide
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Three Leadership Approaches – Three Different Results

I believe we choose the level of influence we have with our people based on the approach to leadership we choose to take. In my observation there are three distinct approaches to leadership and each derives a different result. 1. Pretentious Leaders create contempt. Pretentious leaders are driven by ego. Their focus is not on their people, it’s on them. When a leader is conceited, fake, disinterested or abrasive, they create a feeling of contempt with their people. The lack of respect erodes trust and causes desires to undermine the leader’s authority. It’s easy to blame problems on your people and even to fire people who seem to be a thorn in your side, but I want to be clear that bad leadership most often creates contempt. 2. Positional Leaders create compliance. When leaders rely on position or authority they are not truly leading. People don’t follow titles, they follow
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What Is Your Contribution?

My father-in-law Dennis White is a master gardener. It is a hobby that he has taken and made into a real craft. Every week, he cuts a bouquet from his beautiful flower garden to take to church to display on the pulpit. It is his contribution, his way to use his talent for the benefit of others. It’s been said that we can’t all contribute in a grand way, but we can all contribute in our own way. If we take our strengths, our talents, what sets us apart and use them for the good of others, then we are making a grand contribution. My friend Jason Hewlett describes this as finding your signature move and he has helped me to realize that it is vital that we share them with the world. I loved this observation from Jason, “The secret is this: Share them. Don’t hide them! If you
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10 Tips for Being Nonjudgmental

We are all judgmental.  It’s just human nature.  Even though it’s in our nature to judge, it’s not always helpful and often turns into a hindrance. There is a definite difference between making judgments and being judgmental. Being judgmental can keep us from building relationships, harm those relationships we already have and keep us isolated.  As Walt Whitman said “Be curious, not judgmental”. These 10 tips for being nonjudgmental from Sheri Van Dijk can help make the distinction. Remember that being nonjudgmental isn’t about turning a positive into a negative; it’s about being neutral, neither positive nor negative.. Reducing your negative judgments will reduce your level of anger and other painful emotions. Keep in mind that judging is like adding fuel to the fire of your emotion; it only increases your painful emotions. You can often reduce a behavior just by counting how often you’re engaging in that behavior. If you get overwhelmed
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Authenticity Gives You Power

My friend, Sandra Joseph, is a big time Broadway star.  She played the part of Christine Daae in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway for nearly a decade.  She is an incredible actress with an even more incredible voice, but what I think I love most is her story. Sandra was a struggling actress in New York City when she was given the opportunity to try out for the part of Christine.  She went into the audition so nervous that her mouth became dry and her lips stuck to her teeth.  Not exactly the best way to make a good impression.  She was offered a part in the chorus but not the lead. A few years later, she was given the opportunity to audition again.  This time she wasn’t going to let her nerves get to her, but she overcompensated and really over did it.  She was not offered any
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101 Ways to Relieve Stress

We all have stress. Too much, or prolonged stress in not healthy. It often leads to both behavioral and physical ailments. You first must be conscious of your stress level, then make a concerted effort to deal with it. Add some of these to your defense mechanism against stress – you’ll be happier for it!   Get up 15 minutes earlier Prepare for morning the night before Avoid tight fitting clothes Set appointments ahead Don’t rely on memory Write it down Practice preventative maintenance Make duplicate keys Say “no” more often Set priorities Avoid negative people Use time wisely Simplify meal times Always make copies of important papers Anticipate your needs Repair things that don’t work properly Ask for help with the jobs you dislike Break large tasks into bite-size portions Look at problems as challenges Un-clutter your life Smile Be prepared for rain Tickle a baby Pet a friendly
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One of The Pitfalls of Success

After hours, weeks and years of hard work, it is amazing when that hard work starts to pay off and you start to see success and your goals coming to fruition.  But so many fall into a similar trap as they begin to experience some success: a lack of humility.  These words from Wynton Marsalis, the Pulitzer-prize winning musician and composer, serve as a necessary reminder when you begin to experience success: “You can tell when someone is truly humble, because they consistently observe and listen, the humble improve. They don’t assume, ‘I know the way.’ Humility engenders learning because it beats back the arrogance that puts blinders on. It leaves you open for truths to reveal themselves.”   You can be at the top of your field, the most successful person in the room, the all star, but arrogance never looks good on anyone.  There is a great danger
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Plus, Minus and Equal

The four-time undefeated MMA champion now MMA trainer, Frank Shamrock, has developed a system for training would-be fighters. I’m not a huge MMA fan – but I think there is a lot of merit to his system. The system is called “+, -, =”. Shamrock’s theory is that in order to be the best, you need to work with someone better than you, someone equal to you and someone whom you can teach.  Shamrock believes this builds the best fighters.   We certainly don’t have to be an MMA fighter to benefit from this system. The same can be applied to us in any scenario. Training with someone better than us pushes us past our limits and helps us see greater possibilities. Training with our equal tests our skills and in the process they become a peer, allow us to create cooperation, shared learning and has a mastermind effect. Teaching allows
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