Life Advice from Top Thought Leaders

leadership board room

Leadership Lessons

Early in his career, Rodger Dean Duncan interviewed interesting people like Lyndon Johnson, comedian Jack Benny, Baroness Maria von Trapp, pollster George Gallup, and anthropologist Margaret Mead. He traded jokes with Norman Rockwell and discussed home carpentry with Robert Redford.

Later, as a leadership consultant, he advised cabinet officers in two White House administrations and coached C-suite executives in dozens of Fortune 500 companies. He also headed global communications at Campbell Soup Company. He received his PhD in organizational behavior at Purdue University, and writes a regular column for Forbes.

Duncan’s latest book LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice From Today’s Top Thought Leadersis a collection of lessons from these interviews.

 

“You can rent a person’s back and hands, but you must earn his head and heart.” – Rodger Dean Duncan

 

Change Your View

Like you, I’ve interviewed many leadership experts. Were there any surprising interviews that gave you a different perspective?

The interviews for LeaderSHOP certainly provide some thought-provoking perspectives.

Drew Dudley emphasizes the value of regarding every new day as a fresh start and an opportunity for self-reflection on specific behaviors. Leadership, he says, is not a title or accolade. It’s a daily choice about personal practices. His Day One approach to personal management involves making your life less about living up to the expectations of others and more about a disciplined commitment to acting on your core values each day.

In discussing purpose and meaning at work, Dave and Wendy Ulrich highlight the importance of humility in the leader. Humility, they say, is at the heart of a growth mindset that encourages and unleashes learning that, in turn, gives meaning to work and fosters engagement.

Bill George talks about how “authentic” leadership is made possible when the practitioner follows an internal “true north” compass of selflessness and integrity.

Elizabeth Crook emphasizes that our gifts are found at the intersection of what energizes us and what we know how to do. Hint: it’s probably something you’ve been doing in one way or another most of your life.

Hugh Blane talks about a mindset he calls JDTM—Just Doing the Minimum—and how getting clarity on what lights your internal fire can be a critical step toward high achievement.

Rob Fazio gives specific examples of how honest conversation is the key to handling office politics. He also says that listening is bad for your health—that is, listening to discouraging messages from others or to negative self-talk.

Ann Rhoades, former Chief People Officer at Southwest Airlines, underscores the importance of rewarding behaviors that are the foundation of the culture you want—and taking quick and decisive action when expected behavioral norms are violated.

Social psychologist Dan Cable talks about a de-motivator he calls “learned helplessness,” and he explains how leaders can create a work environment that encourages smart risk.

Ira Chaleff reveals the secrets of saying “No!” without getting fired, explaining the situations in which refusing a directive is not insubordination but rather smart collaboration.

Jim Kouzes explains how a feedback-friendly work environment is to everyone’s benefit and why dialogue skills are a hallmark of effective leadership.

Carmine Gallo teaches communication techniques used by great presenters as disparate as Steve Jobs and Pope Francis. The “Rule of Three,” he says, has been used by everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Goldilocks.

Career coach Mary Abbajay discusses approaches to “managing up”—dealing proactively with an incompetent manager in a way that doesn’t derail your career. She suggests tactics ranging from keeping the manager (overly) informed to building your own reputation by filling in where the manager is deficient.

Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen talk about how striving for perfection can serve you well early in your career (because it supports doing outstanding work), but it can later hold you back because being so invested in precision can dissuade you from taking the kind of risks that characterize strong leaders.

Other people I interviewed—like Brian Tracy, Tom Rath, Jodi Glickman, Laura Vanderham, and Stephen M.R. Covey—provide a rich mosaic of ideas on leadership and personal development. People tell me the individual conversations are interesting, but the real value is having them all in one place that provides insightful “connective tissue.”

 

“Teamwork has been given a bad name by a world of bad practitioners.” – Rodger Dean Duncan

 

How Leaders Impact Culture

Culture is a big topic in leadership circles. Share a few ways leaders best impact culture for the positive.

10 Vital Empowerment Factors

empowerment
This is an excerpt from Fat Cats Don’t Hunt: Implanting the Right Leadership and Culture to Accelerate Innovation and Organic Growth by Jim Hlavacek, PhD. Jim has over 40 years of global experience as a businessman, strategy consultant, and management educator.

Empower Your Employees

For employees to be empowered, they must have control of their immediate environments.

They must have the necessary mindsets and skill sets—either through hiring or training—to do their jobs effectively and authority to make decisions that maximize the quality, speed, and effectiveness of their work outcomes.

Following are ten key factors that must be present for employees to begin to feel empowered and act on doing what is right for themselves, their company, and their customers:

  1. Theory Y leadership. Company leadership must demonstrate McGregor’s Theory Y management style, in which authority is shared. Theory X leadership, in which all decisions are made from the top down, and cultures in which employees are empowered to make decisions instantly in their realms of responsibility and expertise, are by default, mutually exclusive.

 

“The process of spotting fear and refusing to obey it is the source of all true empowerment.” -Martha Beck

 

  1. Redistribution of power. Per #1, senior managers must be totally committed to the redistribution of power and authority. This presents one of the greatest challenges to culture transformation. Theory X managers at every level of a company have significant difficulty giving up control over even small decisions.

 

“Autonomy leads to empowerment.” -Bobby Kotick

 

  1. Bottom-up decision making. In the old bureaucratic control model, brainpower is assumed to be located only with management in the hierarchy. But this has proven not to be true. As customers have become more demanding, front-line teams have been tasked with responding swiftly to them. As a result, the emphasis moved in some companies from optimizing efficiencies from top to bottom to developing more flexible, innovative and responsible decision-making by close-to-the-customer teams. By default, visionary companies moved away from control and compliance management models to a greater emphasis on entrusting individuals and teams with expertise in their areas to act in the best interests of their companies and customers. In a more committed and empowered organization, front-line workers have the authority to halt a production line or solve customer complaint decisions on the spot, without getting okays from managers higher up in the hierarchy.

 

Leadership Tip: empower front-line workers as much as possible.

The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust

humble leadership

Humble Leadership

 

To be successful today, leaders must develop relationships based on openness and trust. Leaders can no longer rely on formal hierarchical structures and processes. Instead, the new era of leadership is based on service, on teamwork, and even on humility.

In their new book, Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust, authors and organizational culture experts Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein introduce their new model of leadership based on personal relationships. I recently spoke with them to learn more about their perspective and research.

 

“Leadership is wanting to do something new and better, and getting others to go along.” -Edgar and Peter Schein

 

Traditional versus Humble

To get us started, compare and contrast traditional leadership with “humble leadership.”

We see two common myths surrounding “traditional leadership” that humble leadership calls into question. First is the heroic “I alone” myth that suggests that the greatest leaders rise to the top on their own individual brilliance. By contrast, humble leadership proposes that leadership occurs throughout an organization, at all levels and in all roles, and reaches its pinnacles of success when groups drive better decisions and achieve better outcomes.

The second myth is that organizations are machines, directed with command and control, most successful when they can be described as a “well-oiled machine.” Humble leadership proposes that this is at best an antiquated view of organizations. Instead we think of organizations as living systems capable of cooperative resource sharing and adaptation better suited to the volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) world we are only now starting to accept.

 

“Humble means accepting that no individual can know more or make better decisions than any group at work.”

 

What do most people get wrong when they think of humble leadership?

Humble leadership is not about humility in the individual or religious sense. Humble means accepting that no individual can know more or make better decisions than any group at work. Humble means I go to work embracing the fact that I do not have all the answers and will do a better job by asking for help and helping others in the group to arrive at the best decisions. In Ed Schein’s Humble Leadership series, he refers to this framing of humility as “here and now humility.”

We see leadership as a verb not an entitlement. The foundational idea is that humble leadership requires the formation of personal relationships (at work and home) that allow two people or a group to achieve more than the sum of their individual outputs.

In Humble Consulting and Humble Leadership, a human relationship model is presented that describes human relationships in four levels. Level 1 is domination and exploitation (think prison guards or shop floor bosses in a sweatshop). Level 1 is transactional role-to-role interaction, cordial but typified by “professional distance.” Level 2 is a cooperative empathic connection between two whole persons formed by inquiring and sharing information. A Level 2 relationship is based upon, and continually reinforces, openness and trust. We refer to the process of creating Level 2 relationships as “personization.” Level 3 adds intimacy to openness and trust. This Level 3 ability to “finish each other’s sentences” is typically associated with lovers more than co-workers, though we do see Level 3 relationships in the highest performing teams (e.g. SEAL teams, orchestras, improv performers, and so on).

The essence of humble leadership is building Level 2 relationships with the people around you in order to improve and maximize information flow (openness) and cooperative work (trust). With these Level 2 relationships, anyone can arrive at work with here-and-now humility, knowing that he or she does not have all the answers, and confident that with inquiry and curiosity, better answers and outcomes will result.

 

Would you share an example of humble leadership?

4 Steps to Managing Your Self-Talk

self talk

Managing Your Self-Talk

Self-talk is not often covered as a leadership topic, but Erika Andersen cites it as one of the most important skills to master.

Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a firm that focuses on leader readiness. She’s the author of three other books:  Leading So People Will FollowBeing Strategic, and Growing Great Employees. All of her books are full of actionable advice from her three decades of advising and coaching executives.

I recently spoke with her about her tips to manage our internal conversations.

 

Leadership Tip: listening and mastering self-talk are critical skills for leaders.

 

Let’s talk about managing your self-talk. How important is managing self-talk?

Critically important. If I had to name the two most valuable skills I’ve learned over the past thirty years, I’d pick listening and managing my self-talk. It’s enormously powerful to be able to recognize and shift how you’re talking to yourself about yourself and your circumstances. It allows you to have much more control over how you respond to what happens within you and around you.

 

4 Steps 

You give 4 steps to managing it: Recognize. Record. Rethink. Repeat. 

Yes, here’s how it works:

Recognize: In order to manage your self-talk, you have to “hear” it. Unless you’re aware of this internal monologue, it’s impossible to change it. For instance, let’s say you’re feeling incurious about something you need to learn. You notice your mental voice saying, This is so boring – I can’t possibly focus on this enough to learn it. Once you start attending to the voice in your head, and recognizing what it’s saying, you can begin to do something about it.

 

Success Tip: writing down your self-talk is a key part of managing it.

1 Japanese Business Skill We Should All Master

Japan

1 Skill to Master

Because I do business all over the world, I have the opportunity to travel and learn unique skills. Unless you want to see quick disaster, it’s important to prepare carefully when meeting with counterparts from other cultures.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Japan. My experience with Japanese business leaders has always been positive. I appreciate the unique culture. On this trip, I was once again struck by the Japanese hospitality, by their respect, deference, and kindness.

If you’ve ever studied Japanese business etiquette, you may know that the norms are very different from Western standards.

  • Rank and title are more meaningful than in the United States.
  • Polite conversation normally requires frequent expressions of gratitude.
  • Slightly bowing shows respect.
  • Where to sit at a negotiation table, or at dinner, is carefully orchestrated by rank and standing.
  • Business cards are exchanged with intention. Hold the business card with both hands and show respect to the person with a slight bow to it. Never put the card in your back pocket or casually put it away. Instead, place it close to your heart in a card case.
  • The group is more important than the individual.
  • Slurping soup is proper etiquette and shows your appreciation.
  • Giving gifts is very important and is a ritualistic exchange.
  • Toasting is important at dinner.
  • Nodding is customary to show attention and comprehension.
  • Nine is an unlucky number in Japan, making the subtitle of my new book problematic. Too late!

The list goes on and on.

japanese pond

 

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” –Leonardo da Vinci

 

The Skill of Silence

There’s one particular skill, or habit, that I particularly noted. Japanese are much more comfortable with silence than in many other parts of the world.