Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow

Mastering Leadership Concepts

Learning how to lead. It’s the focus of many lectures, articles, blog posts, and books. Joshua Spodek prefers the active to the passive, teaching with exercises designed to master leadership concepts.

He recently wrote a book titled Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow that takes this teaching approach. His background includes a mix of academic and corporate experience, allowing his coaching methods to incorporate the best of both. I recently spoke with him about his new book and his approach to leadership.

 

“What holds people back isn’t not knowing what skills to have but how to get them and use them effectively.” -Joshua Spodek

 

What Holds People Back

You bristle at the question of what qualities make someone a leader. Why?

Every book and resource lists qualities of effective leadership: integrity, self-awareness, resilience, empathy, listening skills, and so on. Popular terms now include grit and hustle.

Almost everyone knows what qualities make leaders effective. What holds people back isn’t not knowing what skills to have but how to get them and use them effectively. The techniques of nearly every book, video, MOOC, and every other resource are to teach people intellectually what they need.

But intellectually knowing that self-awareness is important doesn’t increase yours. I know the principles of playing piano. But I haven’t practiced, so I can’t play. Those least self-aware know least what to do about it, despite needing it most. The same goes for any social or emotional leadership quality.

You can’t lecture someone into integrity. No amount of reading will develop grit.

To develop social and emotional skills, you need to take on social and emotional challenges. Lectures, case studies, biography, and psychology papers may be intellectually challenging, but they are socially and emotionally passive and therefore ineffective at teaching social and emotional skills.

 

“There is no glory in practice, but without practice there is no glory.” -Unknown

 

Learn How to Lead

Is that what you mean when you say that business school taught you about leadership but not how to lead?

Exactly. Business school taught me principles but gave me little practice using them. Discussing a case study of someone else’s life will teach you something. I’m not saying lectures and case studies are worthless, but they can’t substitute for facing personal challenges.

After graduation, I learned leadership skills in practice, but I doubt it was any faster than had I not learned the principles.

Going to a top-5 school didn’t help. The more elite the school, the more the professors got there through publishing or perishing, not facing social and emotional challenges.

 

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” -Vince Lombardi

 

So what’s the alternative? Skipping school?

I struggled with that question, especially after noticing how many great leaders dropped out or were kicked out of school: Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Sean Combs, Michael Dell, Elon Musk, … the list goes on.

leadrshpstepbystepI wondered: did school hurt?

Two observations resolved the situation for me: How you learn is as important as what you learn.

The first was seeing how many top actors had tremendous emotional and social skills, coming off as tremendously genuine and authentic, yet dropped out of school, often high school. I learned that they didn’t stop learning. They switched to a different style of learning.

The other was connecting with the project-based learning and teaching community. I found that their students developed leadership skills that MBAs would dream of, but without taking leadership classes.

 

How does that play out in practice?

I learned that experiential, active learning is more effective for fields like leadership that are active, social, emotional, expressive, and performance-based. Plenty of fields are like that besides leadership and acting: playing musical instruments, athletics, dance, singing, improv, the military.

In all of them we teach through practice and rehearsal. When you master the basics, you move to intermediate skills. When you master them, you move to advanced.

Only with leadership do we start with theory. Compare the quality of athletes and musicians our nation creates with the quality of our leaders, or rather people with authority.

That’s why so many great leaders emerge from sports, acting, the military, and places outside academia. Look at your page on leadership insights, http://www.skipprichard.com/leadership-insights: the first people I see are baseball player R. A. Dickey, athlete/actor Chuck Norris, and basketball player Bill Bradley.

 

Try a New Approach

Can you clarify how you teach if not traditionally?

I teach and coach by giving students and clients an integrated, comprehensive progression of exercises starting with basics and leading, with no big anxiety-causing jumps, to skills so useful and advanced that most seasoned leaders would learn from them.

The exercises have you do things with people you know on projects you care about, so you face social and emotional challenges, but in safe contexts, so you don’t risk your job to develop the skills. It’s like practicing piano alone, then doing small recitals, and so on to get to Carnegie Hall.spodek

My exercises are like scales in piano or footwork in dance. Basics are valuable at every level. Look at the top seeds at Wimbledon before finals. They practice their ground strokes. LeBron still practices layups and jump shots.

I call how I teach Method Learning, after Method Acting, which is what we call the style of learning and practice for acting, and it produces Method Leaders. It’s not just acting. All the fields I listed above use the same technique.

You develop greatness, genuineness, and authenticity the same in leadership as in any of these other fields: Practice, practice, practice!

My book has stop signs after each exercise description saying, “Put the book down. Go practice. Reading about lifting weights doesn’t make you strong.”

 

“Reading about lifting weights doesn’t make you strong.”

 

Then what’s the role of a teacher or coach for a leader?

The First Step in Solving Your Biggest Problems

 

This is a guest post by Mark Miller. Mark is the best-selling author of six books, an in-demand speaker, and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-Fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture, outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

 

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

 

Take the First Step

I’m guessing much of your life and leadership is devoted to problem-solving.

If you aren’t trying to fix the problems you currently face, you are probably attempting to anticipate, and proactively respond to, problems on the horizon. Maybe the problem you are trying to address is how to continue to fuel your current success – a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. Problem-solving is a part of a leader’s ever-present reality.

I’ve been searching for years for ways to make my investment in this critical activity more fruitful. Today I’ll share some practices that have helped make our team’s problem-solving efforts more effective.

Let’s begin our deep dive on the topic with a mistake I’ve personally witnessed thousands of times. Before I share it, brace yourself for a blinding flash of the obvious! Are you ready?

 

“Problem solving is a part of a leader’s ever-present reality.” -Mark Miller

 

Don’t solve for symptoms.

Reach: A Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

 

You may know him from his writing for the Harvard Business Review or from his features in The New York Times or The Economist. Andy Molinsky, PhD is a professor of psychology and organizational behavior at Brandeis University’s International Business School. He is the author of Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence.

Since I have long been interested in helping people push past what’s comfortable, I found his new book particularly intriguing. After reading it, I am sure that you will find his work as actionable as I have. I spoke with Andy recently about his new book.

 

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Neale Donald Walsch

 

5 Roadblocks that Keep You in Your Comfort Zone

What keeps people safely ensconced inside their comfort zones?

I’ve found five specific reasons, and I call them psychological roadblocks or barriers.  The first is the Authenticity Challenge:  It’s the idea that acting outside your comfort zone can feel fake, foreign, and false.  The second is the Competence Challenge:  In addition to feeling inauthentic, you can also feel like you don’t have the ability to be successful in a situation outside your comfort zone.  The third roadblock is what I call the Resentment Challenge: Even if people logically know that they need to change their behavior to be effective in a new situation, they may feel resentful or frustrated about having to stretch beyond where they’re comfortable. Roadblock #4 is the Likeability Challenge:  One of the greatest worries people feel when stretching outside their comfort zones is whether people will like this new version of themselves.  Finally, Roadblock #5 is the Morality Challenge:  In certain instances, people can have legitimate concerns about the morality of the behavior they’re about to perform.  Of course people don’t necessarily experience each of these roadblocks each time they attempt to act outside their comfort zones.  However, even one or two roadblocks can be enough to keep people fully ensconced within their comfort zones.

 

Do most people know which one is their challenge?

When we’re afraid of something, we often just feel “worried” or “fearful.” And not really knowing or understanding where the discomfort actually comes from just compounds the problem.  But what I find is that when people can apply this framework of psychological roadblocks to their lives, they have a much clearer way to make sense of their experience – and that gives them a sense of control over something that previously felt confusing or overwhelming.

 

“The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone.” -Karen Salmansohn

 

Stop the Cycle of Avoidance 

The vicious cycle of avoidance is one we’ve all participated in or watched to varying degrees. What’s the best way to stop the cycle and get back on the right path?

So many of us encounter this trap:  We avoid something outside our comfort zone – and feel quite relieved.  But then the next time around, it’s just that much harder.  To stop the cycle, you have to have a deep sense of purpose that the “pain” is worth the “gain” – that whatever it is you’re contemplating outside your comfort zone will contribute to your career or personal development — or enable you to help others and make a difference.  And what’s critical is that this source of conviction is authentic and meaningful to you.  When you have conviction and motivation, you’ll have the power to say yes when every bone in your body is aching to say no.

 

15 Powerful Phrases That Will Make You A Better Leader

Powerful Phrases That Will Make You Better

Years ago, I was walking down a long office corridor in a nondescript office building. Visiting one of the largest companies in the area, I was being escorted to a conference room. What the purpose of that visit was, I really can’t remember.

But I do remember walking by one room. As I was passing by, I glanced in and saw a man at the front of a room filled with maybe twenty or so people. That would not be in my memory bank except for what I next heard.

 

“I’m sorry, I screwed that up and let you all down.”

 

That’s not something you often hear from the front of the room.

I froze, right in the doorway, wondering what he was apologizing for and what was going on. It took me a few seconds to realize that I had no business stopping to watch, so I willed my feet to keep walking.

In those few seconds, I don’t know the details of what happened. But I could discern that this was the boss, and he wasn’t holding back. He had made a mistake and was taking full responsibility for it.

It was impressive. I wonder what the others in that room thought. My guess is that they still talk about this boss of theirs.

 


“Words can inspire and words can destroy. Choose your words well.” -Robin Sharma

 

There are a few power-packed phrases that anyone can use to change the course of a conversation. Here are a few that leaders use to transform their teams:

 

“I’m sorry.”

As I said above, this one is powerful because it’s unexpected, and it demonstrates both self-awareness and personal responsibility. That’s not a boss who looks to throw the blame faster than a quarterback about to be sacked.

“Leaders who apologize demonstrate personal accountability.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Tell me more.”

It’s open-ended. It shows interest. It demonstrates listening skills.

 

“What’s working?”

Especially good if everyone is complaining. This one refocuses on what’s positive. You can build on what’s working before you get into what’s not.

 

“I’m proud of you.”

It sounds parental and maybe that’s where its power lies. But I’ve seen this one both as a giver and a receiver. When it’s sincere, it’s a powerful phrase because it is clear and concise.


“Next to excellence is the appreciation of it.” -William Makepeace Thackeray

 

“How can I be of help?”

I’m often surprised at the response. It may be that simply offering an ear helps enough, but often there are a few specifics that really make a difference and are easy to do.