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 Purpose, Lead Your Boss, How 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 Company, Forbes, 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.
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.
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.