Leadership Moxie: What It Is and Why You Need It

Decide to Lead

Attending a conference recently, I had the opportunity to see leadership in action.  We were sitting in a small, windowless room after a long day of listening to speeches.  I was asked to attend this meeting mostly as an observer.  The first person to talk immediately began explaining a problem.  It wasn’t a few minutes into her explanation when heads were nodding.  Apparently, the problem had been discussed time and time again.

But no one did anything about it.

Finally, a woman stood up and said, “I was at the last meeting and we are no farther to a solution now than we were then.  We have to do something.  Here’s what we are going to do…”

What she proposed was bold and somewhat controversial, but the atmosphere changed instantaneously.

Why?  Someone decided to lead.  Objections were raised, but she was determined.  You could hear the determination in her voice.  Her eyes were intense as she proceeded to outline the plan.  She was prepared, ready.

She had the guts to lead.  She was demonstrating, as you will see, M.O.X.I.E.  Moxie is a leadership formula, a set of characteristics, that distinguish leaders from others.  It makes a leader, like that gutsy woman, start to make things happen.

 

Lead With MOXIE

My friend John Baldoni is a leadership expert who has recently written about moxie in his latest book, MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gusty Leadership.  You may recognize him as the author of numerous books such as Lead With PurposeLead Your BossHow Great Leaders Get Great Results and Lead By Example.  He has also authored thousands of articles in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Fast CompanyForbes, to Harvard Business Review.  I recently caught up with John to talk about his latest book.

 

“Moxie is the guts and determination leaders apply to achieve their goals.” -John Baldoni

 

What is moxie and how is it important to leaders?

Moxie in its purest form is the guts and gumption and determination leaders apply to achieve their goals.  Implied in that definition is the ability to meet and overcome adversity.  Few leaders achieve much without facing up to hardship. Resilience is inherent to moxie.  There is no shame in getting knocked down; it’s what you do next that matters.

MOXIE BY JOHN BALDONI MOXIE BY JOHN BALDONI

And please know I borrowed the word from the movies.  Think of characters who overcome the odds.  We say they have “moxie.”

M.O.X.I.E. is an acronym that really is a blueprint for effective leadership.  Let’s briefly touch on each letter:

Mindfulness.  How does a leader become more mindful about her self and her team?

Practice Self and Situation Awareness

Mindfulness, as I define it, is a combination of self-awareness as well as situation awareness. You develop self-awareness through practice of self-reflection.  You strengthen it by asking for feedback from trusted colleagues.  Situation awareness comes from knowing the score, that is, what’s happening and what’s not happening.  Leaders need to know how their team and organization is doing and they gain that perspective by asking questions, observing, listening, and evaluating what they learn.

 

See Opportunity All Around You

Opportunity.  Opportunistic leaders look for ways to improve everything.  Is this a mindset that can be taught?  How do you coach someone to be more opportunistic?

Leaders are those who see opportunity where others see obstacles. Leaders view challenges as occasions to address problems and find solutions.  True enough some of us are more disposed to opportunity than others, but it can be learned by watching how leaders navigate challenges and turn them into opportunities.

 

“Leaders see opportunity where others see obstacles.” -John Baldoni

 

History is shaped by such mindsets.  As I write in MOXIE, Nelson Mandela viewed South Africa’s hosting of the 1995 Rugby World Cup tournament as an opportunity to bring both white and black together as a unified people, at least for a sporting event Mandela developed such an opportunistic attitude during his long years in prison where he did all that he could to understand his captors, even learning their language Afrikaans.  As South Africa’s first black president he led by example. He did not cave into bitterness; he exemplified reconciliation which was institutionalized and put into practice through the nation.

Why Standing Out is More Important than Ever

 

Your Personal Buzz

Recently, I shared my observations about all things honey.  A honey festival demonstrated that it’s possible to differentiate almost anything—at least from my uninitiated view of the product.

 

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” –Dr. Suess

 

Differentiate YOU

That amazing array of honey products got me thinking about personal brand.  We are all at a fair of sorts.  Whether the marketplace or in your social circles, there are many others competing for time, for opportunity.  How do YOU differentiate YOU?

Most of us don’t think about a conscious plan for standing out.  We have learned to blend in.  But great leaders stand out.  Work that is extraordinary captures our attention.  If you fail to stand out, you will be passed over at promotion time.  Overlooked in the marketplace.  Ignored for the most important opportunities.

 

“Great leaders stand out.” –Skip Prichard

 

Some work stands out so much that it generates that viral buzz that the media savors.  If it makes you uncomfortable just thinking about that type of attention, I have good news.  It often is tiny differences that make the big difference.  Success often happens at the margin.  If your work is only slightly better, you have an enormous advantage.  Often we look with interest at the shocking or spectacular, but settle for purchasing or consuming something closer to our version of normal.  The choice we make, however, is usually one that is just ahead of the competition.

Are you a leader?  Leaders do not blend in.  They don’t hide their unique qualities.

 

“Be the one to stand out in the crowd.” –Joel Osteen

 

Are you a blogger? More than the look and feel of your blog is the personal touch, the sharing, the authentic voice.

Do you have an upcoming speech?  Share a personal story or do something that no one else would do.

11 Leadership Qualities of Nelson Mandela

 

I didn’t quite know what to expect.

 

I wasn’t sure what I would feel, what I would see, or what I would learn.

Earlier this year, I was visiting Cape Town, South Africa and had the opportunity to visit Robben Island.  Robben Island has been a prison for over 400 years.

 

“One of the most difficult things is not to change society but to change yourself.” -Nelson Mandela

 

Today it is most famous as the place where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27 years in prison.  As a student of great leaders and an admirer of Nelson Mandela’s leadership, I knew that this visit was a must.

 

A Moving Experience

 

After a brief ferry ride, we boarded a bus to tour Robben Island.

photo-38One of the stops was at the limestone quarry where prisoners toiled in the hot sun.  The work damaged Nelson Mandela’s lungs and also his eyes.  His tear ducts were damaged, preventing him from ever crying again.

Visible in the background is a cave.  This cave was used as a bathroom and the guards almost never approached it.  Our tour guide explained that the cave became a great place of learning and exchanging information.  Some say it held the most important political meetings of the time.

We later drove to the prison where we met our prison tour guide, Ntando Mbatha.  Ntando was a prisoner for seven years at Robben Island.  His story was moving.  Hearing him explain the conditions of the prison first hand will be forever etched in my mind.

I followed him to the cell of Nelson Mandela.  It was small, roughly 7×9.  A thin mat lay in the corner.  It was stark.  There was an unmistakable feeling I cannot quite explain throughout the entire cellblock.

That day, I learned more about the many heroes who fought against apartheid.  Some beaten.  Some killed.

Seeing this all in person increased my admiration for Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela Cell

 

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” –Nelson Mandela

 

Qualities of an Extraordinary Leader

 

Nelson Mandela demonstrated remarkable leadership qualities: