Sunday, October 31, 2010

Transformational Leadership

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.  What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? 
To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?  Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain.  Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.”  Isaiah 10:1-4 NIV 

With the elections around the corner we hear from so many of the candidates who promise that if they are elected they are going to do so and so.  Once elected, we will soon discover that many of them will go back on their promises.  When questioned about why they have not kept their promises, they will say things like:  It will take time, I am working on it or they will go into spin mode.  For those candidates wanting to be re-elected, they too make promises.  My question has always been why you don’t do what you are promising to do now while you are in office?  Why wait until after the elections?  

What the American people really need is transformational leadership, leadership that makes a difference in the communities in which they serve.  Whether you are Republican or Democrat we continue to see poverty, crime, and poor public education.  It is not getting, and has not gotten any better and things go on as they have for decades.  We need leaders that will stand up for what is right for all Americans not just the ones that agree with them.  Our country needs leaders that can make a real and sustainable difference in the lives of its people.  

Our leaders need to be mindful that the leadership is not about their special interests, or lining their pockets.  It is about the greater good for all citizens of this country.  Every leader must know that they will be held accountable for the decisions they make, both good and bad.  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Underground Leadership

"Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them".  Unknown

With underground temperatures in excess of 90°, thirty-three miners endure tremendous hardship for over 69 days.  During this time they had to fight an assortment of feelings and fears.  Would they make it out alive?  Would they see their families again?  For many of the men their true character was revealed to those underground with them.

One man’s character and leadership emerged, foreman Luis Urzua, as the group’s leader took charge from the start and was instrumental in their survival. This was especially true in the traumatic 17 days before they were discovered.

Immediately after the collapse, Urzua took charge. He began to draw up the orderly rules that would serve as guide in their underground existence, including rationing the small amount of tuna fish and milk available so that it would last longer.  It was a hierarchy to which the men were already accustomed, and they responded to his leadership.

Have you ever been faced with adversity?  How did you respond?  Did panic set in?   Were you looking out for the well being of others or for yourself?   I will be honest I am not sure how I would have responded.  I would like to think that I would have been Luis, immediately mobilizing the men, encouraging them and letting them know that we would get through the ordeal.  His dedication to his fellow miners and his impeccable leadership was the difference between life and death.  It is also important to note that Luis was also the last person taken up from the group.  He saw the well-being of all those under his leadership before he considered his job done.  That's what leaderships is all about!

What are some of the characteristics displayed by Luis?
How would you like to implement those qualities in your own leadership?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Real People

Undercover Boss is one of my favorite shows on television.  It is about various CEO’s of major companies who go undercover in their own organizations to see how they operate at the field level.  

While undercover, they take on low level tasks to experience the work they are asking their employees to perform.  They often find that the job is harder than they thought.  In one of the last episodes, the CEO of an airline was trained to remove sewage from the plane’s septic system with unfortunate results.  The CEO’s not only experience hard work, but they come to hear personal stories from their employees.  They hear stories of loss and struggle.  They also hear stories of triumph and courage.

At the end of the episode they bring the employees to the company’s headquarters and reveal their true identity.  It is heartwarming to hear the CEO’s express their appreciation to the employees they have recognized as being integral to the company’s success.  The CEO’s will then acknowledge and reward each employee for their contribution to the company.  Sometimes it is with a promotion, a paid vacation or some other reward.

After viewing several episodes I observed that all of the employees were extremely grateful for the acknowledgement of their efforts.  It’s at this time I usually begin to tear up, especially when the employees express their surprise that anyone from leadership would care about them on a personal level.  “They do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  Unknown

As a leader it is important that you never lose sight of the people whose “shoulders you stand on.”  Leadership is always about people.  Without people who will follow? 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Blame Game

A few years back our company was in a deep decline. Revenues were down and sales were extremely slow. The cause of the problem was poor decision making and a lack of understanding of our business. The general manager in charge of the largest division of our company made several decisions that accelerated the decline. As the Vice President, I was asked by the CEO if I would take over the division, and I gladly accepted the challenge.

I proceeded to implement a new strategy for the business and within several months we began to experience a significant turnaround. I made the best decisions I could, but not all of them proved to be successful—sometimes you learn through trial and error. When something I tried failed, I did not point to the prior leader as an excuse for my failure.

Leaders accept the blame when we fail and give the team the credit when we succeed.

As a nation we continue to endure an unemployment rate of 9.5%, crime, war, poor educational system, homelessness, foreclosures, etc. Politicians on both sides of the aisle claim to have all the answers. Meanwhile many Americans continue to suffer through one of the greatest downturns in our country’s history.

When asked why things are not turning around, our elected officials continually blame the prior administration’s policies and the mess they inherited. Even if there is truth in that position, it should not have come as a surprise. After all it was clearly evident that our nation was in trouble and none of our problems were hidden from those who said they had the answers to setting the country on a new course of prosperity. When it did not happen they merely blamed the prior administration. They were elected on the promise of “Change”.

If we are ever going to extricate ourselves from this morass, we as a nation need to come together and work through issues that continue to divide us. We must be willing to be held accountable for the actions we take and the decisions we make, not play the blame game.

True leaders hold themselves accountable for the results of the decisions they make, good and bad.

The lives of millions of Americans are at stake. Fear and anxiety continue to dominate the hearts and minds of those who do not see a future with much hope. If we continue to seek out our own interests and not those of all Americans, Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike, we will continue to decline. Remember, this economy is affecting us all.

Are you willing to be held accountable for the decisions you make?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pancakes and Bacon

"Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." - Jesus Christ

To serve or not to serve, that is the question. Recently, I was reminiscing with one of my former employees about some of the good times we had working together. We talked about a lot of different subjects, but one was especially memorable . . . Breakfast. He recalled with fondness how I used to make breakfast for all of the employees.

I remember the first time I made breakfast. I did not announce it. I got to the office about 6:00 in the morning, and by 7:00 breakfast was laid out on the table, ready for the first one to arrive. It took them totally by surprise. Each employee arrived, pleasantly surprised to find the unexpected aroma of freshly cooked pancakes and bacon. “What is the occasion?” they would ask. I told them it was my opportunity to serve and to say thank you to all those who contributed so much to my professional success and the success of the company.

I was well aware that I would not have achieved half of what I was able to accomplish without the help of my team. To show them my appreciation, it was one of my greatest pleasures to cook and serve breakfast for everyone. After all was said and done I would have prepared 4-5 pounds of bacon and flipped 70-100 pancakes. It was not hard work, but a labor of love.

As a leader it is important to do whatever you can to serve your people. It’s not necessary to make them breakfast or take them to lunch, but just do what you are comfortable doing. Let them know how much their efforts are appreciated. It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway, don’t do it if it does not come from the heart. It is not a manipulative expression, but one that comes from really caring for those who do the day-to-day heavy lifting for your organization. It is amazing how little expressions of appreciation go a long way.

What are some of things you do as a leader to express your appreciation to those you lead?