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?

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.

How to Become an A Player

How to Become an A Player

 

Do you want to be a top performer?

Of course you do.

Most of us want to play at the top of our game. And we want to recruit the best possible players to help us achieve our goals.

That’s the focus of Rick Crossland’s work. Rick is an author, speaker, and consultant. His nearly three decades of experience developing, recruiting, and leading high performers is evident in every chapter of his new book, The A Player: The Definitive Playbook and Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level.

 


“You win with people.” -Woody Hayes

 

The Qualities of an A Player

What qualities make an A Player immediately stand out?

Some qualities that immediately stand out for an A Player are as follows:  accountability for results and integrity.  Pay attention to the meetings you are in over the next week and notice how many employees and managers make excuses for missing goals, or do not take ownership or accountability for solving a problem.  This is why the characteristics of A Players are so important.  The A Players are also scrupulous in their integrity.  Many people say one thing and then never follow through (or worse yet, tell a lie).  A Players, on the other hand, have integrity— they consider someone not following through on their commitment as dishonest behavior.

 


“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” -John Wooden

 

Don’t Blame or Make Excuses

I love your “line of choice” image. When a leader sees someone falling into the trap of blaming and making excuses, what does she do to get the player back on track? 

In our cultures everyone is trained on The Line of Choice.  They’ll politely call out their teammate and ask, “Isn’t that comment below the line?” or “What does an above-the-line response look like?”  Or they’ll use the ABC vernacular and ask, “What would an A Player say?” or “That sounds a lot like B Player talk to me.”

 

Copyright Rick Crossland. Used by permission. Copyright Rick Crossland. Used by permission.

 

How to Motivate an A Player

What motivates an A Player?

One thing great about A Players is the leader does not have to motivate them.  In fact, they are self-motivated.  A Players truly work for passion.  They find purpose in the process itself.  They are not coin operated.  They focus on satisfying customers, making better products, and you know what? The money follows!  In fact it flows much more freely than if they had focused on the money.

 


“A Players are self-motivated, work for passion, and find purpose in the process itself.” -Rick Crossland

 

Ethics Matter

Throughout the book, you reference ethics, morals, and character. You also talk about leaders with some big personal failings. Why do so many people fall into these traps? How do you guard against it?

So many people fall into poor ethics and moral character for a few reasons.  One is that their environment lets them get away with it.   I’d recommend you put your antenna up this week and see how many times people in your organization tell and get away with white lies or half-truths.  Odds are you will be startled by what you find.  Now the question is, are you holding them accountable to clean up their act?  The other root cause is that people suffer from hubris.  Many folks just don’t think the rules apply to them, or they think they won’t get caught.

The way to guard against weak ethical and moral character is to build a culture where there is transparency to our actions.  Societal ethics are becoming more blurred by the day.  Make the adage by Aldo Leopold, “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal,” part of your culture’s DNA.  Build your systems so someone is watching and holding others accountable.  Finally, the leader sets the tone for the ethical mores of your organization.  Part ways with leaders with shaky ethics.

 

Wow Your Customers

Is Leadership a Passing Phenomenon?

This is a guest post by Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes. Dr. Adizes is a leading management expert and author of over 20 books. He offers an interesting perspective below.

Leadership: Quo Vadis?

It is in vogue now to lecture, write and debate the subject of leadership. I claim it is a passing phenomenon, like the concepts of administration, executive action and management were before it.

All of those concepts deal with the same process: management of change, taking an organization from point A to point B.

At the beginning it was called administration.  That is why MBA stands for Master of Business Administration.

Over time “administration” was found to be too limiting as a concept. It was delegated to low level supervisory and bureaucratic positions, and the concept of management was born. Business Schools across the country changed their name from Graduate School of Business Administration to Graduate Schools of Management.

The concept of management was not yielding the right understanding of the process of transforming organizations, and the concept of Executive Action was born. Titles such as CEO, CIO, CMO etc. appeared like mushrooms after the rain, and executive programs emerged in the market place.

Still not good enough to explain how organizations should be transformed, the concept of leadership started dominating the literature.

What is going on here?

Administration, Management, and Leadership have a common purpose. They are theories that prescribe how organizations should be transformed and how to manage change. They are all based on the same paradigm of individualism, that a single individual is the driving force of this transformation, whether it is called Chief Administrator or Manager or CEO or Leader.

 

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” –Vince Lombardi

 

As long as we remain with the same paradigm, no concept will be satisfactory. We will continue to change titles, embellish concepts and continue to chase our own tails, reinventing the same wheel from administration to leadership. Leadership will be assigned its place in the annals of social sciences next to management and administration.

Passé.

Individuals cannot transform organizations. It is a team process.

No individual possesses all the ingredients in his or her personality that are necessary for successful management of change.


“Individuals cannot transform organizations. It is a team process.” -Dr. Adizes

 

Change the Paradigm

One Surprising Influence That Can Derail Your Decisions

Patrick McDaniel is the founder of WiseInsights.net, which combines practical research and timeless wisdom to help you keep moving forward despite the challenges of life. Want to learn about 49 other decision making distortions? Download the infographic: 50 Hidden Influences That Can Wreck Your Decisions.

Why do you aspire to be a leader?

Let’s be honest. We want to be leaders because we like leading and influencing people and organizations toward better things. We like impacting lives.

But impacting lives can also be risky.

If you are a leader (in any context like work, family, ministries/organizations), one thing that is unavoidable—

Your decisions WILL impact the lives of others. For good…or for bad.

That is a sobering reality.

 

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” –Roy Disney.

 

Making Decisions as a Leader – An Unseen Danger

Here’s where it gets downright scary: There are factors at play in any decision you make that are often hidden and frequently mess up your best intentions.

These factors are like little gremlins that hijack your ability to make an unbiased decision. That can mess up not only your life but also those you lead.

Let me show you how just one of these distortion factors (technically known as “cognitive biases”) can screw up even your best efforts to make sound decisions…and how to combat it.

 

“We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.” –Ken Levine

 

One Common Corrupting Influence You Can’t See

One common decision making influencer is called priming. Just like the proverbial “priming the pump,” we are influenced in certain directions when we are first “primed” by another variable.

Here are some bizarre-but-true examples of the priming effect. You can find these discussed in detail in the brilliant book Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman.

 

“It’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” –Tony Robbins

 

The Surprising Results of One Research Study

In a test performed by Psychology Professor John Bargh, participants were asked to do a word puzzle. One group received random words to work on while the second group got random words that were sprinkled with words associated with the elderly.

The words sprinkled in did NOT contain any explicit words like “old” or “elderly.” Instead, they were things like: Florida, forgetful, bald, gray, wrinkle.

When each group was done, they were asked to go down the hall to participate in a second experiment. In truth, the whole point of the experiment was found in that hallway.

What did the researchers discover?

  • The group that had the elderly related words walked down the hallway “significantly more slowly” than the other group.
  • This test group was subconsciously conditioned (primed!) to increase their awareness of the state of being elderly. Unknown to them, they were sort of identifying with this topic.
  • None of the participants were even aware of the elderly related words or of their slower walk. Instead, they insisted the earlier word puzzle had no effect on their subsequent behavior.

This is very common with these hidden influencers–you insist you are not influenced by them. This is one reason they are such a problem for us…they pull us off course while we insist that they haven’t.

Were the results of the above experiment a fluke? Read on.

 

“Not to decide is to decide.” -Harvey Cox

 

More Revealing Results from a Second Research Study

In another experiment with two different groups of study participants, one group was unknowingly primed with rude words and concepts while the other group was primed with politeness-type stimuli. They then recorded how participants in each group interacted with a neutral party on an unrelated topic.

You don’t need me to tell you how this turned out.

Researchers found that the individuals who had been primed with rude stimuli interrupted the experimenter and their peers three times more frequently than the participants who had been primed with polite stimuli.

 

This unseen influence can impact your behavior positively or negatively by a magnitude of 3X.

 

Hmmm… another coincidence?

Keep reading.