Friday, June 25, 2010

Leadership (Bitter or Sweet?)

I go to the same coffee shop everyday for my caffeine fix and have been doing so for the past 10 years. During this time I have seen managers come and go. With each new manager I have noticed that some employees seem to take on the personality of the manager. It is amazing to see people change right before your eyes.

There was one store manager that seemed to be dissatisfied with her job and she wore it on her face. I am not sure why she was even hired as a manager. She was short-tempered with her staff and seldom smiled or engaged the customers. Servers, who were previously energetic and happy, turned sour quickly under her leadership. If it were not for the location and the quality of the coffee I would not have returned.

After a time the manager was replaced with one who appeared to love the job and supported her staff. It took some time but the change in the employees was dramatic. With stress levels reduced, unforced smiles returned and employees appeared to be more engaged in their jobs and with the customers.

What does this say about leadership? How you act can have a significant influence on the people that work for you. People draw their energy from their leader. This influence can be both positive and negative, and can have a serious impact on business and the lives of the people you lead. If you are serious about your leadership it is essential that you be mindful of your demeanor, especially when you are working with your team. When your attitude is positive you will be surprised how productive your team can be.

Coffee always seems to taste better when it is served with smile.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


With the primary elections over, let the mudslinging begin. In an article in the SF Chronicle, Saturday, June 12, 2010, just four days after the election, former California Governor Jerry Brown was said to have compared Meg Whitman, his republican opponent, to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister for Hitler. However, according to Brown’s campaign spokesman, his words were taken out of context. Here is the problem as I see it--with California at 12% unemployment, teachers and policemen being laid off, and cities throughout the country facing tremendous budget shortfalls, we have already begun to see the nasty campaign rhetoric rear its ugly head.
Is this what we have to look forward to over the next few months? While many Americans struggle to make ends meet, it is disheartening to sit on the sidelines and see candidates go after each other like we do not matter.

This is not the time for casting aspersions at one another; it is time for authentic servant leadership. Are we, as Americans, getting what we asked for? Do we demand the best of our leaders? Too often we allow them to make promises on the campaign trail but do not hold them accountable when they do not keep those promises. It should not be a surprise then when they do not live up to their commitments.

I believe we can emerge out of the current economic difficulties, but only if our leadership focuses on working through the issues with mutual goals in mind, and that is to stabilize our economy and create a sustainable job market.

As we move closer to the November elections it is going to be critical that we demand that the candidates stay focused on the issues that matter to most Americans, jobs. We must demand that they bring real solutions to the problems we face. We must not allow them to distract us with name calling and made up accusations.

Currently we are not the UNITED States of America, but are divided on so many issues and ideologies, e.g. illegal immigration, gay marriage, abortion, Republican vs. Democrat, etc. This election must be different if we are to overcome the challenges we face as a nation. Unless we hold our candidates to a higher standard we will continue to elect mediocre, self-serving individuals concerned only with their own agenda. Moreover, we will again be left frustrated and angry at the lack of results. We must demand that our candidates focus on what is good and right for all Americans.

You may have noticed that throughout this post I have used the word we frequently. Why? Because we are all in this together.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Leaving a Legacy

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
John Wooden

I would like to dedicate this post to one of the greatest men and leaders to have walked this earth.

This past Friday, the man who was voted the greatest college basketball coach of all time passed away at 99 years old, John Wooden. Mr. Wooden coached UCLA college basketball for over 27 years, won 10 National Championships and was the first person to be inducted into the hall of fame as both a player and a coach. As word of his death spread across the sports world, former and current basketball players who either played for or knew Coach Wooden expressed their condolences. It was quite apparent by the words expressed that this was an extraordinary man. They used phrases and words like great leader, loving husband, loyal, disciplinarian, inspirational and a tremendous human being.

John Wooden lived by his Seven Point Creed, given to him by his father Joshua upon his graduation from grammar school:

Be true to yourself.
Make each day your masterpiece.
Help others.
Drink deeply from good books.
Make friendship a fine art.
Build a shelter against a rainy day.
Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

It was said by everyone who knew him that there will never be another like him. His life exemplified uncompromising character and strength. Although I never met him, I learned so much from him by the way he coached and the way he treated people. Sometimes the world waits until a person dies before trying to think of something good about the person's life, and then may have to exaggerate or fabricate good things to say. This is not so with Coach Wooden. The people whose lives he impacted have said the same words of gratitude, admiration and love about him all throughout his life--there is no need to exaggerate.

When I look on his life I come to realize even more that life is not about wins and losses, but how you treat people. What I have learned from John Wooden is that leadership is about caring for people. It is about being concerned with both the personal and professional growth of the people you lead. It is about holding the people you lead accountable for doing the right thing.

One of the best comments I heard was from a sportscaster who stated that today the world is a little worse off now that John is gone. He truly left a legacy that will never be rivaled.