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.
When I first became a CEO, I noticed something strange.
In a meeting, I was suddenly funnier. The slightest hint at humor could erupt the room into laughter. I was also smarter. And my arguments were more persuasive. Heads would bob up and down as I made a point.
Obviously my new title didn’t bestow some magical gift of brilliance. What it provided was positional power, and people were reacting to the position.
Immediately, I knew what happened. It took me longer to figure out what to do about it.
I’d seen this much earlier in my career when people would “parrot” the CEO. I call it the Parrot Principle. To get along and be accepted, some find it’s just easier to parrot the CEO than to think critically, to argue, or to be independent. Why rock the boat when you can just agree and repeat what you’re told?
The cause is usually fear. Fear of losing a job or of not being in the inner circle. It’s also a symptom of a culture needing change.
Because of a lack of self-confidence, a fear of job loss, or an extreme need for acceptance, it is easier to agree with the boss than to advance a different point of view.
The result is usually what I call a “pocket veto” where people nod in a meeting, then go outside and talk about what they really believe. It’s bad for everyone. The company is not served well. The CEO may not even realize what’s happening. And the parrot is building distrust throughout the organization.
It’s not just the new CEO who faces this problem. It’s almost any new position of power. If others are dependent on you, you can be vulnerable to the Parrot Principle.
So what can you do about it?
My Favorite Zig Ziglar Quotes
“You are what you are and where you are because of what has gone into your mind.” –Zig Ziglar
Are you imagining me driving in a pink Cadillac? Hosting Mary Kay parties?
What an image. Unlikely. Didn’t happen. (But don’t laugh because there are men who apparently are quite successful.)
So how did Mary Kay have such a big impact on me?
In my very first post on this blog, I shared the unique way I grew up. My parents took people in. All ages, races, religions. Some would stay a night while others stayed for years. That meant that there were usually more girls at home than just my four natural sisters. My mom wanted to earn some extra income and save money on buying all of the required cosmetics and skin care. Someone recruited her into Mary Kay.
Like many, I have always been fascinated with all things Lincoln. Studying great historical figures like Lincoln, who endured and persevered through unbelievably tough circumstances, can teach more about leadership and character than almost any modern lesson.
Abraham Lincoln, notoriously quiet about himself, would undoubtedly be amazed at the number of books written about him. Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership in Washington DC now has a spiral staircase piled three stories high with over 6,800 books written about his life. Thousands more books could also be added, and every year many more are published.
With all of the great books already available about Lincoln, it’s easy to wonder whether any more are needed. My good friend Stephen Mansfield has just written an extraordinary book, proving that it’s still possible to add to our understanding of the 16th president. Though I’ve likely read over fifty books about Lincoln, I’m a novice on his life. Stephen’s Lincoln’s Battle With God filled in missing pieces for me, added perspective, and provided more color.
In studying Abraham Lincoln’s life, what characteristics made him such a powerful leader? Tell me more about his character.
I suggest in Lincoln’s Battle with God that there were three forces that profoundly shaped his leadership but are rarely discussed.
First, his depression. Lincoln battled depression all his life. He neared suicide more than once. He was haunted by the deaths of loved ones. He had to fight through it, had to reach for the meaningful facets of life so he could endure. This inner struggle gave him compassion, wisdom and an outsider’s perspective—all of which fed his leadership gifts.