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.

Leadership Lessons from Over 50 Thought Leaders

People + Books = 1 Changed Life

 

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was one of my great influencers.  He repeatedly said that, “You will be the same person you are today in five years but for two things:  the people you meet and the books you read.” Every year, I am privileged to have the opportunity to read so many incredible books and meet fascinating people from all walks of life.

Last year, I launched this blog with the idea of sharing insights, ideas, and inspiration from many sources. On the one hand, I’m disappointed that I was only able to share a fraction of all of the people who influenced me. On the other, I’m glad that I started doing it because now, as I look back on it, I’m the one who benefited the most. Charlie was right. All of the books I read and all of the people I met did indeed change me.

Here are a few of the people who shared their experience and wisdom. If I can learn a fraction of what they know, I will be better equipped to lead in the coming year.

Before you start the new year, take the time to meet some of these people and take their leadership lessons with you. Instead of “interview in progress” you will find a “great life in progress.”

Leadership, News & Politics

 

Dan Rather (his life in the news)

Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State)

Barbara Simons (on the dangers of new ballot machines)

Senator Bill Bradley (on how we can all do better)

 

Business Leadership, Strategy & Execution

 

John Baldoni (purpose, leadership)

Jill Geisler (Make Work Happy)

Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos on culture)

Cynthia Montgomery (strategist)

Jim Huling (on the 4 disciplines of execution)

Geoffrey Moore (how to cross the chasm and rethink the future)

Faisal Hoque (BTM CEO on the power of convergence)

Chris Grivas (which creative style are you?)

Shep Hyken (7 strategies of amazing customer service)

John Baldoni On Leadership

If you are a student of leadership, you will likely know the name John Baldoni.  His manybooks including Lead With Purpose, Lead Your Boss, How Great Leaders Get Great Results and Lead By Example all line the bookshelves of my office.  If you somehow missed all of his books on leadership, you may have read his work in publications such as Inc.com, Fast Company, Forbes, CBSNews/MoneyWatch, Bloomberg/Businessweek, and Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post.

What I like most about John’s work is that it is practical.  I can put his advice to use immediately.  His latest book is The Leader’s Pocket Guide: 101 Indispensable Tools, Tips, and Techniques for Any Situation.

John, this pocket guide seems to distill so much of your work in bite-sized tips.  What motivated you to write this pocket guide?

This book is the result of my work with executives I have coached over the past decade or so. As I say in the dedication to the book, my impact on them has been small but their impact on me has been large.

You start the book with self-leadership, then move to working with colleagues and finally an entire organization.  Why is self-leadership always the starting point?

One cannot lead others without leading oneself. So where does that begin? With self-awareness and self-understanding. So often I work with executives who are capable leaders and are giving to others but they end up shorting themselves. This section focuses on things to do to develop your critical thinking, awareness and presence. All are critical to leadership.

What’s Your Purpose?

Named one of the world’s top leadership experts, John Baldoni is a recognized name for anyone studying the subject of leadership.  He has appeared on numerous programs, been quoted in publications as diverse as the New York Times to Investor’s Business Daily, and he has written articles for Inc. and the Harvard Business Review.  Having now read John’s tenth book, I recently enjoyed discussing leadership theory and practice with him.

If you regularly read his columns, you know that John scours the world for models of success and presents examples for you to follow.  Well before I was a CEO, I followed his practical tips.  If you are in a leadership position, he is someone you want to follow.  If you want to move up in an organization, he has some wise counsel.