When Everyone Else Is Playing Defense, Play Offense

You need to score to win at anything in life and to score you need to play offense!   I don’t know what’s happened to the mindset of the average business leader these days. I’m well aware that they’re bombarded with lots of information, most of it negative about the state of the economy, our […]

Ten Things Business Leaders Need to Do in 2023

It has certainly been an interesting time to be a in a business leadership position these last few years.  Every time you thought you had something figured out a new challenge arose.  It was hard enough dealing with COVID-19 then we had to deal with a  broken employer-employee model.  In addition, economic conditions have been […]

Leaning in and Leading Your Organization In A Recession

There is a famous Jack Welch quote where he says. “Never miss out on an opportunity like a good recession.”  I also like the Sam Walton quote, “I was asked what I thought about the recession. I thought about it and decided not to take part.”  Both of these leaders understood the importance of keeping […]

A Simple Formula for CEO Success

I am asked all the time if there is a simple CEO success formula that every leader should follow.  I believe there is and unfortunately few leaders have the discipline and commitment to consistently stick to it. The first thing you must clearly understand and mange to is your CEO role.  Far too many leaders […]

Leadership Thought #400 – 25 Ways Leaders Get Themselves in Trouble

Leadership isn’t easy or everyone could do it. Some talented people make it look easy, but we often don’t see all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make it look this way. Most leaders struggle at some point and have to learn some difficult lessons along the way. Experience can be the best teacher if you are open to learning. I’ve observed the following 25 ways (in no particular order) that leaders tend to get themselves in trouble:

Martin Luther King As A Leader

Donald T. Phillips in his wonderful book, Martin Luther King on Leadership, does a nice job providing significant detail as to why Martin Luther King (MLK) was a great leader. We often focus on the rhetoric and powerful speeches that he gave, but there is so much more substance to the man than just what he had to say.

Leadership Thought #438 – Good People WILL Leave Your Organization

If you employ people, the reality is that employees will come and go. It is extremely rare that someone will take the entire business journey with you (or that you should want them to). A good company still experiences 10-15% turnover each year. One of my old bosses once told me that “The only certainty he had was that he was there at the beginning and would be there until he sells out or hands off the reigns to someone. More than likely, just about everyone else will come and go at some point. All you can do is strive to maximize the mutual benefit of the employer-employee relationship while they are here. You want to create an environment where good people want to stay, but accept the fact they will eventually leave, often for reasons beyond your control.” At the time I thought this was a bit cynical, but I see his wisdom more clearly many years later (Note: I left).

Leadership Thought #468 – The Biggest Mistake Leaders Make

The biggest mistake leaders make is to think it is all about them. They believe that success or failure is a direct result of their own personal behavior rather than a team effort. Show me a successful leader and I will show you a person surrounded by good people who each do their own jobs exceedingly well. While it is common practice in this country to celebrate the individual, no one builds a high performing organization by themselves. This doesn’t mean that the leader isn’t an essential ingredient; however, he/she needs other ingredients to complete the recipe.

Leadership Thought #467 – Leaders Should Listen More Than They Talk

Over the years I’ve noticed that it is inexperienced or mediocre leaders who feel like they have to dominate all conversations. It’s almost as if what anyone else has to say has limited or no value and it is only their opinion that counts. We’ve all been in meetings where there is that one person who simply will not be quiet and yield the floor to others. They are also often prone to interrupting their colleagues before they can finish their thoughts and using obvious body language when the center of attention isn’t focused on them. This is bad enough when it is a peer but even worse when it is the actual leader of the group. Nobody likes a “know it all.”

Leadership Thought #463 – You Need To Have Thick Skin To Lead Others

Leadership is not for the faint of heart. It certainly has its ups and downs and can test anyone’s emotional fortitude. However, this is the very reason so few people can do it well. If you take every small slight and failure personally, the job will eat you alive. Whenever you assume a position of responsibility, you automatically also assume a roster of critics and malcontents who aren’t always aligned with your leadership vision. Since you can’t realistically fire everyone who disagrees with you (nor is this advisable), then you need to figure out other ways to handle the pressures and scrutiny.

Leadership Thought #453 – Are You Bringing Positive Energy?

I find that one of the most recognizable traits of an effective leader is that they bring positive energy to a room. You can feel it the moment they walk through the door. I have been in banquet halls far from the entrance and felt the presence of certain people as they arrived. It’s almost as if a small electrical jolt works its way through the crowd. While most of us aren’t blessed with this type of “rock star” aura, we can certainly notice and work on the effect we have on others. You are either adding energy to the group dynamic or diminishing it. It really is this simple. Leaders must be a source of consistent positive energy if they want to get the most of out of their people.

Leadership Thought #451 – Beware Of Being Put On A Pedestal

Beware of putting yourself or anyone up on a pedestal. There are right ways and wrong ways to feed someone else’s or your own ego. Just because an individual has experienced significant success in one aspect of life, doesn’t mean they are equally competent in all other things human. It doesn’t do that person or you any good to blanket the praise. It is one thing to appreciate and respect individual accomplishment. It is another to think that similar success could be achieved in whatever else that person attempted. In fact, it can be dangerous as we heed advice or jump to conclusions about different situations based on who we choose as our role models. For example, Bruce Springsteen is a very talented songwriter and musician, but there is most likely a difference between his songwriting and his own reality. He is not a deity, he is a man. Thinking he has life all figured out isn’t fair to him or you. No one of that stature can ever live up to the hype.

Leadership Thought #433 – You Must Be Willing to Change to Stay Successful

Inflexibility is rarely a virtue especially when it comes to business. The landscape of business history is littered with failed business leaders who were either unwilling or too slow to change their thinking. Just because something has worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work in the future. The only constant in life is change. Markets change. Customer attitudes change. The best method for doing business changes. Technology changes. As a business leader you must be willing to adjust to your changing circumstances or risk the consequences.

Leadership Thought #431 – FOCUS, Focus, focus

If I had to pick one thing that inhibits success the most amongst small business and nonprofit leaders I would say it is a lack of sustained focus. By the very nature of them being entrepreneurs, they tend to be very opportunistic. It is common for them to see a business opportunity around every corner. Their mindset is that every problem has a solution and the only obstacle to progress is a lack of effort. Unfortunately, this is only partially true. Yes, every problem does have a solution, but the effort needs to be put forth by the right people with the right plan. It is not merely a question of resources, attention and willingness to put forth effort. Great leaders and strong businesses focused on the wrong opportunities/problems typically only achieve mediocrity at best. At worst, this distracts their true potential for greatness by limiting their attention on what they should be doing in the first place and creates business vulnerabilities that should never have existed.

Leadership Thought #402 – Don’t Wait For Crisis To Force Action

It shouldn’t take a crisis to force action, but many leaders seem to operate this way. As a result, a large number of companies are always in a reactive mode and waiting for external or internal stimuli to prompt action. Unfortunately, this type of mindset tends to lead to increased time pressures and higher margin for error. Life and business tends to reward those who take proactive control of their future and penalizes others who yield too much control to other factors. In essence, the sooner you take positive action the higher the likelihood you will navigate whatever storms come your way or even prevent the storms from happening in the first place.

Leadership Thought #391 – Pace Yourself

You can’t operate at top gear all the time. Even “Type A” people need some downtime or they will eventually burn out. I watch people all the time push themselves to the limit. You can see it in their eyes and read it in their body language when they are exhausted. And, tired people tend to underperform, make less than optimal decisions, allow their people skills to slip and if they are not careful begin to resent heir work. It’s very important for leaders to learn to pace themselves and set a good example for others to follow.

Leadership Thought #375 – Change Management Lessons From The Movie Moneyball

As a New York Yankee fan, I must admit to not being all that excited about the movie Moneyball with Brad Pitt when it came out. The story is about the exploits of Billy Beane as General Manager of The Oakland A’s when he literally transformed his approach to running a baseball team. When it got nominated for an Academy Award I thought maybe I should see it one day, but didn’t rush out to but it. I finally saw it last week and was blown away. I guess at this point I should pretty much trust anything Aaron Sorkin is involved with. Not only is the movie well written, directed, and acted, it also has many important lessons that are applicable to my work with business leaders. It was almost as if they had a leadership/management expert on the writing team. I’d like to highlight the following takeaways:

Leadership Thought #357 – The Need for Courage

Anyone can scare someone else, but it often takes alot more effort to give them courage. Leaders everywhere need to take the lead on changing this mindset. The greatest leaders throughout time have given people hope for a better future. They pushed individuals, communities, organizations and countries to elevate their perception of what’s possible. Instead of scaring people into action and using fear for manipulative purposes, they encouraged others to find the strength and resourcefulness within themselves to meet any challenge and seize opportunity. To quote Winston Churchill, “courage is the first of human qualities, because it is the quality that guarantees all others.”

Leadership Thought #355 – Growth Comes with Its Own Challenges

Business ownership has never been for the faint of heart. On-going change and adaptability is part of the success equation. Even when things go well there are problems you will have to navigate. As you grow, your company and you should be prepared to experience many if not all of the following issues:

Leadership Thought #345 – Focus on What You Do Well

Focus on what you do well and then delegate everything else you possibly can. Many leaders spend far too much time on things they aren’t good at. Leadership is about effectively growing, leveraging and deploying assets. If the top personnel resource in the company is being used inefficiently or ineffectively what does that say about the organization as a whole? Time is finite and once it is wasted it is gone.