Leaders cannot be low energy people – it is that simple. When you walk into a room the energy level should automatically pick-up. When you meet someone who is low energy your own positive energy should be infectious. Success at anything requires thoughtful action. You need to focus like a laser beam and plough forward despite the inevitable obstacles and distractions. When other people are saying “no” or this is too hard, you have to be able to say “yes” and encourage them on anyway. As with everything you need to lead by example.
Month: September 2011
A weakness I often see in leaders is a belief that their job is to supply all the answers. They tend to dominate discussions and almost always want to have the last word. The problem is that no matter how smart and capable you are, you will always be limited by your own thinking and life experience. In addition, if you create an environment where everyone looks to you for answers, then you will hinder the growth and development of your employees and enable mediocre effort (and commitment).
I’ve always believed that life rewards those who are prepared when an opportunity presents itself. To do this, you need to honestly know what a great opportunity would mean for you and why. You need to have an underlying sense of your personal values and priorities. You need to be actively searching for success and happiness and be on the lookout for positive signs. You need to know what you would be willing to give up or sacrifice to make something work. You need to be flexible but not jump at every opportunity that presents itself. You need to have a sense of context and perspective. You need to learn from your mistakes. You need to be brave enough to answer the door when opportunity knocks and be willing to risk short term comfort for long term gain. You need to be intellectually, physically and mentally prepared for the ensuing challenge. You should also be wary of burdening yourself with a lifestyle that affords minimal flexibility and boxes you into a financial corner.
The problem is that life is complex not simple. There are many reasons why things do or do not happen. At some point we all are faced with difficult choices with no clear answers. Very often we make these decisions under some level of duress and/or with imperfect information or unclear guidelines. Life does just happen sometimes and navigating it can be as much of an art as a science.
I can’t imagine what it was like growing up in the musical shadow of Bob Dylan. And, then to have the courage to follow in his footsteps and carve out your own successful artistic path – what pressure. The comparisons were inevitable and the stakes so high that it would have been easy to fail or give up. It also is alot to expect that songwriting talent at this level would exist in more than one person in a family. Yet Jakob Dylan persevered and his career to date clearly stands on its own merit.
Believe it or not I often feel sorry for people who achieve success too easily. If you don’t have to work for something, you tend not to appreciate it as fully as someone else who has struggled to get where they are. It’s a fact of life that we often take those things for granted that come with minimal effort. Luck may have a place in life but it shouldn’t be a personal or professional strategy. Individual character is usually best forged in the fires of adversity and defined by a person’s ability to navigate whatever obstacles are strewn in their path of achieving those things that are meaningful to them.
There are few things more unappealing then someone trying to be something they are not. If your actions aren’t genuine, people pick up on it right away. This doesn’t mean that you have license to behave any way you choose, but every individual should do their best to tap into the better parts of their nature. It’s not always easy, but if you want to lead others, it is a professional imperative.
Very few of us ever attain, what would be termed, sustained and lasting success. Instead, we bounce up and down (sometimes sideways) in search of the seemingly elusive goals of career success and personal happiness. In my experience, these two objectives are not mutually exclusive, but intertwined and critical to an individual’s sense of self worth and meaningfulness.
As summer fades into our memory and another fall enters our lives I thought of the song “September Grass” by James Taylor. His songs have been part of the background of my life since I was a small child. There is something comforting and reassuring about his music. I never get tired of listening to him sing his lyrics which tend to conjure up vivid images and positive memories from my past. He almost always seems to capture the moment perfectly.
Leadership and life is about reinvention. Who you are today will not be who you are tomorrow. There are too many variables beyond your realm of control. I sincerely hope that life is kind to you and that you won’t be given more to manage than you can handle. However, life also rewards those who are prepared. The market continues to value and reward those organizations that take calculated risks and proactively strive to create a successful future. People who live the most fulfilling lives are those willing to make changes and challenge conventional wisdom. If you stand still, others will pass you by and life will eventually run you over.
While email and text messaging are great communication tools, they are poor vehicles for dealing with conflict. Sadly, they can be used very effectively for instigating conflict. I’ve seen passive-aggressive behavior taken to new heights by individuals who don’t have to worry the interpersonal dynamics of looking another person in the eye when talking to them or reading and responding to group body language and other visual cues. It’s easy to rail against someone from a distance. It’s also common to misinterpret the intentions behind communication and jump to conclusions that may be flawed.
Inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime. Sometimes it’s triggered by small seemingly innocuous events other times it is the result of something significant happening. It’s not something you can program or create as needed. In its best form it usually happens organically and unexpectedly. Sadly, most people allow these moments to pass them by and they evaporate almost as quickly as they came.
There is no more important job of a leader that providing clarity about the mission, vision, values, competitive positioning and direction of the company. Without this information, employees are simply making it up as they go along and/or reacting to events as they occur rather that proactively making the “right” things happen.
One of the great things about music is that there is always something new to discover. Sometimes it is an artist you’ve never heard of before, other times it’s actually making the effort to explore a songwriter who captured your attention at some point. Everyone knows the band Crowded House from their two hits song of many years ago – “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Something So Strong.” Regrettably, I never paid much attention to this very talented trio from New Zealand. Then I stumbled across some solo work by Neil Finn the lead singer and main songwriter and was both impressed and pleasantly surprised by his body of work including efforts on several other projects. The more I listen to his music the more I like it.
It is inevitable that everything must some day end. Sometimes it is of our own choosing other times it is not. However, nothing lasts forever. This can be a hard concept to accept especially when you are the midst of something important, special or significant.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday living it’s important to have things you do just for yourself. We all need outlets for our mental, physical and emotional stress and catalysts for our personal well-being. We also need to remember not to wander too far away from our true self. It’s easy to lose your individuality and identity as you age and take on additional responsibilities in life. There are many times where there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day. We spend so much time doing what we have to do or think we should be doing that there is very little time to decompress and just be ourselves. Then one day we wake up and wonder what happened.
What made American industry great was that we had a solid albeit often informal contract between employer and employee. If you show up, put in your dues and do a good job, we will take care of you economically and provide a sense of security around your professional and personal well being. Hang in there and stay the course and there will be opportunities for advancement. We will also create a safety net to catch you when you fall and/or have to deal with challenging life issues. The overarching theme being that we are all in this together and should make the best of it. It is also why we created the largest middle class ever known to mankind and put great distance between ourselves and other economies in the world.