This is Day One: Leadership That Matters

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Everyday Leadership

Leadership educator Drew Dudley has spent the last 15 years teaching a more inclusive concept of leadership. His approach has resonated: his TEDx talk Everyday Leadership (The Lollipop Moment) was voted one of the 15 most inspirational TED talks of all time. His first book This is Day One: A Practical Guide to Leadership that Matters is a Wall Street Journal bestseller. I recently spoke with Drew about his work.

 

Why is it that so many people fail to recognize themselves as leaders?

We’re educated out of our leadership at an early age. The examples you’re given to illustrate a concept shape how you come to perceive it for the rest of your life, and the leadership examples we’re given as kids are usually giants: presidents, scientific groundbreakers, people who conquered empires. As those archetypes are reinforced through media and cultural institutions, we come to see leaders as looking a certain way, sounding a certain way, and having a certain level of profile and influence, and we don’t look for leadership from anyone who doesn’t fit that profile. Most people don’t see themselves as fitting that mold and regularly dismiss moments of impact, generosity, empowerment, courage, growth, etc. as “little things” rather than moments of leadership. How is a moment that causes someone to walk away from you feeling empowered not a moment of leadership? Someone is better off because of you and is likely to pass that along to others. Let’s face it however, because it impacts one person and not hundreds or more, those moments are rarely celebrated as leadership. That type of behavior isn’t how we’re introduced to leadership – it is presented after the giants, and as such is perceived as a somehow “lesser” form.

 

“You can’t add value to the lives of anyone else until you’ve added enough value to your own.” -Drew Dudley

 

Leadership is a Daily Practice

You make it clear that it’s a daily behavior, a daily practice. Why and how did this become a focal point for your leadership teaching?

Presenting leadership as a daily choice makes it far more accessible. I started working with university students—passionate, driven young people who fought for social justice, organized to provide support to their fellow students, volunteered hundreds of hours within their communities, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for charities. However, the vast majority of them didn’t see themselves as leaders. In fact, their perception of themselves was best encapsulated by one student who responded to the question “Why do you matter?” with “Well…I don’t yet. That’s why I’m working so hard.”

As I continued with my work, I found that people of all ages had subconsciously adopted the perspective, “I don’t matter yet, that’s why I’m working so hard.” When leadership is determined by titles and what you have done rather than about behaviors and what you are doing each day, people look at what they haven’t accomplished as evidence they don’t deserve to call themselves leaders.

However, perceiving leadership as a daily choice rather than accolades and influence gained over time reminds us that each and every one of us awakes every morning having done nothing that day to earn the title of leader, and we have the opportunity and obligation to act in ways that impact people and organizations positively. You may have spent 10 years acting in ways that made you the CEO, but on any given day the individual who sweeps the floors in your building could actually engage in more impactful behaviors than you do. On that day, they were a bigger leader than you were. It’s a perspective that keeps you from getting complacent because of what you have done.

 

“Leadership recognized is leadership created.” -Drew Dudley

 

Develop a Personal Leadership Philosophy

5 Ways A Leader Can Learn More About Themselves

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This is an excerpt from Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title by Rick Miller. For over 30 years, Rick served as a successful business executive in roles including President and/or CEO in a Fortune 10, a Fortune 30, a startup, and a nonprofit.

Do You Want to Be Chief?

Being Chief requires us to develop insight. It is as much about being as it is about being Chief. Insight is a key to increasing your confidence, effectiveness, and, since your power increases as you connect what you do to who you are, deepening your self-understanding through insight will deepen your power. Insight can come from the simplest experiences and from the places you least expect it. Always be on the lookout for gems of insight that can guide your path in life.

There are five ways a leader can learn more about themselves. Specifically, Chiefs choose to be:

  • Present
  • Still
  • Accepting
  • Generous
  • Grateful

Be Present: When you become totally aware and conscious, you can use all of your senses to learn everything possible in the current moment. Specifically, when you give 100 percent of your attention to the people you spend time with, you will find that your relationships become much more fulfilling.

 

“Insight is the understanding that comes from self-awareness. -Rick Miller

 

Be Still: Contrary to many Western cultural norms, perhaps our most important choice is to develop the deeper understanding and truth that comes with being still. To maintain inner balance, choose the tranquility and peace of stillness. In that peaceful state, you will develop the ability to trust and have confidence in your own voice.

 

“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen-that stillness becomes a radiance.” -Morgan Freeman

 

Be Accepting: When you choose to accept people and circumstances for who and what they are, you can escape the frustration of trying to change them. Try to take a nonjudgmental approach to people to open yourself to the potential of clarity and deeper relationships.

When you accept the past and remain receptive to circumstances and people, you can open yourself to the possibilities of learning from all situations and from every individual. When you accept your current reality with a certain degree of detachment, you will find that things come to you with a fraction of the effort otherwise required.

 

“The power to be Chief is a choice. It doesn’t come from a title-it’s a choice anyone can make.” -Rick Miller

 

Leadership and Life Lessons from Cal Turner, Jr.

Click above to watch our video interview.

 

Small-Town Values that Power a Multi-Billion Dollar Company

 

You likely have heard of Dollar General. It’s a retail powerhouse generating over $20B in revenue from its more than 14,000 stores.

Though he would never take an ounce of credit, Cal Turner, Jr. was the driving force behind the massive growth and success of the retailing giant. The leadership transition from his father, and later to non-family leadership, is told brilliantly in My Father’s Business: The Small-Town Values that Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company. Cal Turner’s new book is a mix of autobiography and business advice.

Even if you don’t run a business, you will find the book a compelling read. It is full of life lessons that will encourage and challenge you.

Having lived in Nashville for a number of years, I can vouch for the fact that the Turner family is well-known for their philanthropic work and for living out their servant leadership values. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not a raving fan of his philosophy, his giving, and his leadership. I have been for years. So, it was a great honor for me to talk with Cal Turner, Jr. about his family, his business, and about his leadership.

I hope you enjoy our conversation which spanned all of these topics. His book is proudly within grasp on my bookshelf.

 

Cal Turner, Jr. grew up in Scottsville, Kentucy. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, he served for three years in the United States Navy before beginning a career at Dollar General. He served as CEO for 37 years. In that time, stores rose from 150 to over 6,000 and sales from $40 million to more than $6 billion. He has served on numerous boards and has received more awards than can be listed here. He is a shining example of servant leadership long after his retirement.

 

my father's business

“A leader inspires someone to go for his or her best.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

 

“A leader is one who helps others to want to dig deeper into themselves and to be part of a success that’s bigger than they are.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

 

“Our mission is not to make money and I don’t believe the CEO who describes his mission as making money is fully worthy of his responsibility.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

 

“Leadership exists when an organization overcomes having a boss or a boss mentality. A boss only gets results; a leader gets development.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

 

“People will forgive you for anything before they’ll forgive you for being successful.” -Cal Turner, Sr.

 

For more information, see My Father’s Business: The Small-Town Values that Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company.

How To Turn Culture Into A Productive Force

Cultivating A Winning Culture For Your Business

A strong productive culture is a superpower behind every long-lasting success. Culture demands artful management and everyday care, which seem to remain a mystery for many. How do you turn corporate culture into a productive force and secure success?

In CORPORATE SUPERPOWER: Cultivating A Winning Culture For Your Business, author Oleg Konovalov discusses what culture is, its functions and roles, why it is important and how to fix it when it goes wrong. The book offers a step-by-step guide on how to manage this incredible asset. Oleg is a management consultant with rich experience of running businesses in different industries and countries. His book is an exceptionally well-done overview of culture and how to turn it into an asset for any organization.

I spoke with Oleg about the book and his findings.

 

“Culture is a measure of success and a cause of it.” -Oleg Konovalov

 

Why do you think culture is getting so much attention these days?

We are well into the Knowledge Era, a time for new thinking about people, and appreciate that everyone has a stake in building the future. This is an era of a competition of corporate cultures, not processes.

Culture influences people’s actions, vision, minds, and hearts. In fact, an organization’s culture is its soul, and whoever controls the culture controls the soul and so, organization.

No company can move further than its employees’ competencies, where strategic development is bounded by the development of people. A successful implementation of corporate strategy directly depends on the active involvement and constant improvement of everyone.

Organizational culture is the most crucial ingredient of success, giving life to all of its many processes. Strong culture stimulates the enhancement of productivity by homogenizing the best psychological qualities of employees, the sense of unity and belonging, internal cooperation, and employees’ loyalty. Also, sustainable development depends on an organization’s ability to attract and retain the best people.

 

“Culture influences people’s actions, vision, minds, and hearts.” -Oleg Konovalov

 

Why Leaders Must Care for the Culture

Become an Athletic CEO to Lead in Turbulent Times

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Throwing Out the Book

High-performing leaders don’t always lead by the book. They may not be full of praise. They may not celebrate small wins and give positive feedback. But somehow, some way they manage to deliver growth year after year. They can even set the bar for the entire industry. This leadership philosophy is different than what many of us follow today. Since I enjoy studying these various models, I wanted to share it with you.

Stanislav Shekshnia, Veronika Zagieva, and Alexey Ulanovsky have studied them for ten years. And they write about their findings in Athletic CEOs: Leadership in Turbulent Times. I recently asked Stanislav to talk about their research.

 

“Don’t let anybody work harder than you do.” -Serena Williams

 

The Athletic Leader Attributes

What is Athletic Leadership and what are Athletic Leaders’ unique attributes? 

Athletic Leadership is a model, a construct, which describes effective leadership in the specific context, defined by rapid obsolescence, high turbulence, heavy government involvement, high-power distance leadership tradition, and a medium level of development of human capital.

Athletic is a metaphor which we used to emphasize a very important characteristic of the effective CEOs we have studied – mental toughness. Just like top athletes these leaders are super-ambitious, passionate, focused, cool-headed and merciless to the competitors, followers and themselves. This evokes images familiar to all of us: Usain Bolt, Wane Gretzky, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.

At the same time, business leadership is more complex than sports. Athletic CEOs combine toughness with mental adaptability. They are proactively curious; they constantly reinvigorate knowledge, and they change their mental models. This almost improbable combination makes them effective.

 

“I love competition, so when you talk and tell me what you’re gonna do, all it makes me wanna do is work harder.” -Usain Bolt

 

The agendas of athletic leaders – their ambitions and major themes –  are complex and multidimensional, with many different overarching themes, time horizons and specific projects. However, there are two central leitmotifs in all this diversity: winning and transforming.

Athletic leaders strive to beat specific competitors – companies and leaders they recognize as such. They work hard to beat their own records, e.g. they want their companies to constantly outperform themselves. They would like to set world records. Their playing field is the world, and their benchmarks are the global leaders. And athletic CEOs want their companies to win championships as well as single matches; they make the long-term success of their organizations a very important element of their leadership agendas.

Leadership is always about transformation, and this priority sits high on the agendas of athletic leaders. Transformation, or positive change for its own sake, has a profound meaning for them. And, as with ‘winning,’ athletic leaders pursue different kinds of transformation at different levels. They change people who work for them, the companies they manage, the industries they compete in, the communities their businesses operate in and the countries in which they live and work.

Athletic leaders also use some distinct iterative behavior strategies for leading people and organizations which I call meta-practices. These practices produce superior financial performance (outputs of athletic leadership) and long-lasting transformational legacy (outcomes of athletic leadership).

 

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and, most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” -Pele

 

What do these leaders do that is not necessarily “by the book”?

The model of athletic leadership describes what effective leadership actually looks like in the specific context. This model seems contradictory: it reflects both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sides of leadership. Some specific elements of athletic leadership go against well-established and widely-accepted leadership models. Let me give you some examples.

Athletic leaders do not fit into the well-known ‘Level Five Leadership’ model depicted in Jim Collins’s bestselling book From Good to Great. They are not humble, but openly ambitious. They say ‘I’ much more often than ‘we.’ They do not follow ‘the Window and the Mirror’ pattern that Collins describes; rather, they habitually take the credit for success and may blame subordinates for underperformance. They usually decide on a course of action and only then think about the people who will carry it out (contravening the ‘First Who … Then What’ principle of ‘Level Five’ leaders). They do not shy away from the limelight, but constantly seek it. CEO Vitaly Saveliev appears in every issue of the Aeroflot inflight magazine; Herman Gref has given more than a hundred press interviews since becoming Sberbank CEO.

 

“I hated standing on that third-place podium. Hated it, hated it.” -Michael Phelps

 

Athletic leaders do not always demonstrate another recognized attribute of effective leadership: emotional intelligence – at least not in the way described by Peter Salovey, John Mayer, David Caruso, or Daniel Goleman, who write about understanding and regulating personal emotions, understanding the emotions of other people, and interacting with them on the basis of that awareness.  Athletic leaders are relaxed about managing their own emotions and give themselves the freedom to raise their voices or threaten followers. They criticize more often than they praise. Providing positive, constructive feedback is not their strongest competency. One of them said to us, ‘My deputies are mature, well-paid professionals – if they don’t understand what they do well, they should not be where they are. They don’t need feedback.’  Athletic leaders do not often reflect on what effect their actions and words have on other people and rarely take any steps to correct negative outcomes. They are so passionate about what they do that they assume others share the same passion, demonstrate the same level of commitment, and therefore do not require any kid-glove treatment. Like top athletes, athletic leaders are so concentrated on winning that they tend to forget about the people who help them to win.

 

“I don’t fold under pressure, great athletes perform better under pressure, so put pressure on me.” -Floyd Mayweather

 

Outcomes and Outputs