Sunday, August 28, 2011

Leadership Is Not Just About Position, But Being In Position

Recently, I spoke at a high school in Oakland. I have to admit, before I arrived at the school I had images of a dirty and unkempt campus. As I parked my car in front of the school I prepared myself for the odor of musty hallways and the trash being strewn around the school grounds and hallways.

I was so wrong. The school was immaculate! As I walked through the corridors I started to think about the person(s) responsible for maintaining the school’s interiors. As I walked to the classroom where I was to speak there she was, this striking middle-aged woman at the bottom of the stairs, working away. I just had to tell her what a wonderful job she was doing. As I approached her she greeted me with a smile. This was the smile of a person who enjoys her work and takes pride in it.

I expressed to her that she was doing an incredible job! She smiled and thanked me for the compliment. I have to tell you that I believe she would do a great job no matter if she received acknowledgement for her work or not.

I shared my thoughts with the Assistant Principal. She stated that her work ethic was not only appreciated by the teachers, but all of the students.

In my mind, she is not just a custodian, but a leader. She demonstrated hard work, conscientiousness, commitment, and a dedication to being the best she could be. She is modeling a type of leadership that all of us could learn from.

Leadership is not just about position, but being in position to impact others.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Drive Miss Daisy, But Not While Drunk

Over the past few months sports figures and actors have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).  How many times are these undisciplined individuals going to be allowed to drive under the influence before someone else is killed?  Last year, one well known television actor killed the passenger riding with him while he was driving intoxicated.  He said he was sorry, but it did not bring his passenger back to the family left grieving.

It sickens me when I hear these selfish people stand up in front of the media to say they are sorry, only to see them arrested again for the same offense.  When will we as a nation start to take drinking and driving seriously?

While researching for this post I was amazed to see that there are several websites devoted to celebrity DUI arrests: and

In team sports they often speak of leadership as pertaining to the one who is most vocal or who is one of the best athletes.  Many times it does not matter what kind of leader they are off the field, as long as they produce on the field.  Team captains who are arrested for DUIs are given a pass because they know how to run with a football or shoot balls through a hoop with regularity.  Depending on the severity of the offense, they are still considered leaders.

A few years back there was a well-known baseball manager arrested for DUI while passed out at a stop light.  Guess what!  No suspension or termination.  NO real accountability.  Heck, I don’t think he missed a game.

I am not sure what needs to happen before we as a nation take drinking and driving seriously, but our leaders must take a stand and increase the punishment for individuals who intentionally get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated.

Recently, former NFL player, Bubba Smith passed away.  Although he will be remembered for his play on the field, he will also be remembered for passing on thousands of dollars he made from beer commercials.  Bubba stated that he knew how many kids were looking up to him and his endorsement of beer drinking could have a significant impact on their impressionable lives.

That’s leadership!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Taking From The Top or Receiving From The Bottom

We have all heard of the CEO’s on Wall Street who, in spite of their companies’ poor performance, have taken huge bonuses.  The sad thing is, in some cases they immediately turned around and laid off hundreds of workers.  Even when a company performs at a high level, the leaders at the top should always look to reward all of the employees who have contributed to the company’s success.

How does a leader justify taking millions in bonuses while cutting salaries and staff.  I am not saying that there’s anything wrong with the leadership being paid handsome bonus packages, but they should be commensurate with performance.

I have a friend that is a CEO of a company that had achieved a significant increase in the company’s profits.  As a result, his team had a bonus pool of cash that he needed to distribute.  He had to decide whether to take his bonus off the top and distribute the balance to his team or to distribute the team’s bonuses first and receive what was left from the bottom.  For him the choice was easy, he received what was left from the bottom of the pool.  He said if it had not been for his team, his company could not have performed so well.

I was impressed by his decision in light of the fact that there are so many CEO’s who take from the top.

Leaders who receive from the bottom are those who recognize that they are standing on the shoulders of the people who make them successful.

If you are a leader are you taking from the top?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Characteristics of Humility

A friend of mine had a business meeting with a client.  He later shared with me his surprise when the CEO offered him a cup of coffee and then proceeded to pour and serve it to him.  He said, “The CEO poured me a cup of coffee!  Not his assistant, but the CEO!”

My friend was so surprised, because too often a trait that is consistently missing in today’s leaders is HUMILITY. 

Leaders must be willing to get out of themselves and look at the whole instead of the part.  We need leaders who can encourage people with enthusiasm, confidence and most importantly, humility.
But what does a humble leader look like?
  • Does not consider himself/herself above certain tasks
  • Acknowledges when someone has a better idea
  • Admits when they are wrong
  • Willing to serve someone else, even if they are a subordinate
  • Understands that it is not about their needs and wants
  • Quickly gives credit where credit is due
Can you name one leader in the public eye that has demonstrated humility?