Innate Leadership: It’s Already Inside

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Robert Murray is an author, speaker, executive, chairman, advisor, and associate professor.  His book It’s Already Inside: Nurturing Your Innate Leadership for Business and Life Success is a terrific blend of storytelling, personal experience and wise counsel that will make you laugh, cry and learn.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Bob a few questions about a wide range of topics.

Cultivate Your Inner Leader

Bob, let’s start with the title. 

It’s Already Insidegives us a glimpse into your philosophy.  You believe that leadership is innate, that everyone has the DNA to lead.  How did you develop your philosophy?

Good question.  I believe that over the years we have evolved with many characteristics that have helped human beings become who we are (the good and the bad!).  Buried in the soup we call our DNA are so many lessons that have enabled us to grow, innovate and thrive.  Leadership is one of those traits.  Some don’t know it or have had their confidence and competence squelched by the conditioning of their parents, teachers, coaches, society, etc. Cover Final

Leadership is not always about being the loudest, most charismatic or the most extroverted in the room.  Leadership comes in all shapes, sizes and conditions.  There are the traditional leaders that we are used to seeing in business and society. However, there are many leaders that silently toil away in organizations and use their abilities to influence decisions—or those that bolt from the office at 5:00 and go into the community to lead scout groups, volunteer organizations or little league teams.  They are moms and dads that lead their families, their neighborhood and the local school PTA.

Work Harder Than Anyone Else

Terry Fox is the famous one-legged runner who inspired millions.  You grew up with him and watched his struggle against cancer and his response.  Watching him taught you some powerful lessons.  For those of us who only watched or read about him, give us an inside view of what he was like.

Terry was the most determined and dedicated person I have ever met.  His energy was infectious, and he inspired everyone around him to be their best too.  You just couldn’t help digging deeper and working harder from his influence.

 

A man who does not think and plan ahead will find trouble right at his door. -Confucius

 

We’re often temporarily moved and motivated when we hear a story like Terry’s.  But, how do you take Terry’s incredible attitude and let it really grab you and change you for good?  What’s your best advice on cultivating such a daily attitude?

What I learned from Terry is forever imbedded in me as the person and the leader I am today.  However, on those dark and cold days when I wake up with the feeling of, “Oh crap, I just don’t have it in me today,” I think of how Terry dragged himself out of a warm bed every day at 4 in the morning and faced the fight head-on. Then I start moving and I get my head back into the game.

Terry was proof to me that everything in life that you truly want is gained through working harder than anyone else and having the discipline to stay on the road less traveled.

Note to Managers: Stop Making Decisions

Photo courtesy of istockphoto/peskymonkey

This is a guest post by Dennis Bakke. Dennis is the CEO of Imagine Schools and the author of The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time (Pear Press)..

The conventional wisdom on leadership: Get advice from others but make the final decision. But in today’s shifting global marketplace, it’s out of date. More and more, success in business isn’t about producing the proverbial widget, but unlocking human potential. Success isn’t about rigid systems that guide our people as they churn out product. It’s about how we release our people to innovate, at every stage of the game.

As a young leader, I followed the conventional wisdom. I might ask a couple of people for some input before I made a decision. But I made the final call, always.

Success is about how we release people to innovate, at every stage of the game. -Dennis Bakke

It didn’t take me long to realize that the more decisions I made, the less engaged others became.  They didn’t have any control over the process or the results. So they didn’t feel any ownership in them either.

The problem was me. To be a good leader, I had to let go.

The reality is that it is the boss who is often the last to know. So when bosses, department leaders or team leaders make all the decisions, they’re often operating with stale or second-hand information, some of which has been edited or sanitized on its way to “the boss.”

Shape Your Company’s Future

 

Are you confident in your company’s future?

How do you rate your business strategy?

Is your team engaged in the creation of your plan?

Are you staying ahead of the competition and creating a sustainable advantage?

 Shape Your Future

“Strategy is about shaping the future.”

That’s the opening line in The Strategy Book by Max Mckeown.  In a logical, straightforward manner, Max walks readers through strategic principles and best practices in a way that educates the novice and the well-practiced strategist alike.  Whether you are a CEO or a new team leader, Max provides helpful tools and checklists to improve your strategic plan.

Max Mckeown is an author of several best-selling, award winning books. He’s also a sought-after speaker on subjects ranging from competitive advantage to strategy to leadership.  He holds an M.B.A. and Ph.D. from Warwick Business School in England.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Max about strategic best practices.

What’s the biggest misconception about creating a strategy?

Strategy isn’t a document. Some people believe that it is. And that’s probably why so many hard-working people roll their eyes when the strategy word is mentioned. Specifically, strategy is not leaders spending a million dollars on thick documents produced by outsiders to which insiders must align.-

You’ve met thousands of managers and leaders in businesses around the world.  When you meet a team, what attributes are present when you find an exceptionally high-performing team?

Strategy is about shaping the future. Perhaps this is why the roll-up-your-sleeves, get-things-done kind of people are often impatient with anything remotely connected to the word strategic. They want results. They tend to ignore the want-to-see-the-bigger-picture kind of people they see as daydreamers.

9 Qualities of the Servant Leader

Photo by Michael W. May on flickr.

Leading With Others in Mind

At first blush, you may think a servant leader literally takes on the role of a servant. Taken to an extreme, that definition would look like this:

As you pull into work, the leader meets you at your car, opens your door, and welcomes you to the office.  Maybe the leader gets you coffee mid-morning and drops by in the afternoon to see if you need anything.  When you need assistance on a project, or maybe just someone to do the grunt work, there your leader is, waiting for you.

No, that isn’t servant leadership.

 

“Servant leaders lead with others in mind.” -Skip Prichard

 

Servant leadership is a blend and balance between leader and servant. You don’t lose leadership qualities when becoming a servant leader.

A servant leader is one who:

1. Values diverse opinions.

A servant leader values everyone’s contributions and regularly seeks out opinions.  If you must parrot back the leader’s opinion, you are not in a servant-led organization.

 

“Servant leaders regularly seek out opinions.” -Skip Prichard

 

2. Cultivates a culture of trust.

People don’t meet at the water cooler to gossip. Pocket vetoes are rejected.

 

“Servant leaders cultivate a culture of trust.” -Skip Prichard

 

3.  Develops other leaders.

 

The replication factor is so important.  It means teaching others to lead, providing opportunities for growth and demonstrating by example.  That means the leader is not always leading, but instead giving up power and deputizing others to lead.

 

“Servant leaders give up power and deputize others to lead.” -Skip Prichard

 

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4.  Helps people with life issues (not just work issues).

It’s important to offer opportunities for personal development beyond the job.  Let’s say you run a company program to lose weight, or lower personal debt, or a class on etiquette.  None of these may help an immediate corporate need, but each may be important.

 

Why You Should Empower Employees

Several weeks ago, my wife and I headed out for a quick lunch.  I had been traveling and speaking in a few cities and was glad to be home.  Before lunch, we needed a few supplies and stopped at Target.

Target does a lot right.  Wide, brightly lit aisles.  Easy-to-find merchandise.  And friendly staff who seem happy.

When I was grabbing the items I needed off the shelf, I noticed a sign.  “Buy three of these items and get a $5 gift card,” one sign said.  The other said, “Buy two and get another $5 gift card.”  I only needed one of each item, but I thought why not take the money so I loaded up.

At the checkout counter, we paid for items and then I asked about our gift cards.  We liked the kind woman who was helping us.  She was efficient and the type who could build a relationship fast.  “I thought about that,” she responded.  “Let me check….no, this item doesn’t qualify for some reason.  I know you only bought this many so you would get the card.”

She pulled open the Target brochure, looked at the item, and still couldn’t figure why it didn’t give us the cards.  I explained that I checked the labels when I took the items off the shelf and that they were immediately behind the sign.  She shook her head and offered to have someone go check the sign.

Immediately in my mind I pictured what would happen:  A light would go off.  She would get on an intercom and bellow, “Man in Aisle 9 needs a price check!”  We would hold up the line, miss our lunch reservation, and a manager would come out to talk to us.

“Forget it,” I said, not wanting to cause a scene and not having any time to wait.  For me, the pain wasn’t worth it.  (But I’m thrifty enough that it did bother me.)

“I’m sorry,” she responded with an “I wish I could do something” attitude.

Management Lesson

This is not a story about Target.  It’s a good store.  This is not a story about the checkout clerk.  She was so nice we would seek out her line next time.

It’s a lesson for management.  And it’s all about empowerment.