Tag Archives: Strategic

Leadership In Tough Times

Upward EdgeLast week I attended Cox Business Executive Discussion Series breakfast. The topic: Leadership in Tough Times. There were 5 impressive panelists from various industries: education, the military, shipbuilding and of course, small business. Here are some tidbits that stood out for me.

  • “Tough times come in cycles. In good times prepare for the tough times.” Edward L. Hamm, Jr. President and CEO of E.L. Hamm & Associates, Inc.
  • “Leadership is about being strategic. Give people experiences…get people to do things that they don’t think they could do.” Rebecca A. Stewart, Vice President of Submarines and Fleet Support, Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding-Newport News.
  • “Each organization needs certain type of leadership for the different cycles that an organization may go through.” Alvin J. Schexnider, President, Thomas Nelson Community College.

Another quote that I thought was interesting and it is right for this time and I will paraphrase here: “How to do more with less… less that’s more meaningful.”

The moderator for this executive session was Cathy Lewis, Host/Executive Editor WHRO. She asked each panel members, as well as, the audience to give their own definition of leadership. Well, this made me think. Several months ago I wrestled with my definition of leadership, to the point that I could not sleep. A result of that sleepless night in February, 2010, I gave birth to my definition of leadership and here it is.

Leadership is more than mouthy words, showy ceremonies or something you hope to do someday. Leadership is doing something now. 
Leadership is doing something your brain says is risky, but your heart says do it anyway. Leadership is doing what is right even at the cost of losing relationships and possibly your livelihood. 
Leadership is reflecting moral values and ethics. Leadership works to liberate the oppressed and to provide resources for the poor.

Leadership is action that is foundational, visible, transforming and life changing. Leadership has expectations and aspirations for real change. Real change can only come through practicing and living out what is in your heart and in your soul. 
Leadership is unlimited when you believe in something bigger than yourself.

Guess what; in a span of 90 minutes our distinguished panel members and our moderator came to the same conclusion. What is your definition of leadership?

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Leadership Quotes

Here are some leadership quotes that you may not be familiar with. They have strong meanings for me. I hope they will for you as well. Enjoy.

  • Leaders are inherently teachers, If you are going to lead, you need to have something worthwhile to say and demonstrate to others ( Dr. Myles Munroe, 2009).
  • A true leader does not measure his success by comparing himself to others but by evaluating how he is fufilling his own purpose and vision ( Dr. Myles Munroe, 2009).
  • Leaders commit others to action; convert followers to leaders and convert leaders to change agents (Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus, 1997).
  • Great leaders do not desire to lead but to serve (Dr. Myles Munroe, 2009).
  • Leadership is a journey that starts where you are, not where you want to be (John Maxwell, 2005).
  • Good, effective, and relevant leadership is all about lifelong learning (Dave Kraft, 2010).
  • The leader’s greatest calling and most significant long-term contribution is to recruit and train other leaders (Dave Kraft, 2010).
  • Leadership is unlimited when you believe in something bigger than yourself (Tony Crisp, 2010).
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Leaders In Today’s World

Upward EdgeWhat does it take to be a leader in today’s world? I believe it is the ability to see new things and to articulate that vision in a new way. It is the ability and willingness to take people in new directions.

You can be that leader. It takes vision, courage and having the right words to encourage and to persuade. It takes the ability to recognize your assets and the willingness to put your assets to the test. It is the willingness to fail and to allow others to fail. Finally, it is believing in yourself and your willingness to risk for a greater cause.

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Leadership Is About Teaching

Upward EdgeWell, it’s the Fifth Tuesday of the month and that means Quadrant II time in my division. If you are familiar with Stephen Covey’s book “First Things First” you would be very familiar with his Time Management Matrix. Most leaders and managers are very familiar with the matrix and of Covey’s insistence on finding quality time for “quiet focus” but they just don’t practice it. I make it a habit to practice Quadrant II time in my division; it is my way to “force” my managers to focus, to plan and to learn.

Quadrant II is the quadrant of personal leadership and for personal growth and yes, team growth. It is one of the most important things you can do for your managers and your organization. It’s a critical time to “force” your key players to pause, to re-create, to plan, to build relationships and above all to learn.

So during our Fifth Tuesday of the month, I teach, or someone on the team teaches or we bring someone from the outside to teach us how to relax, to learn new information, to think strategically so we can stay competitive and to improve client services.

So, today as we were doing our Fifth Tuesday thing, it hit me: a good leader teaches. The leader teaches to sharpen the skills of his staff; to prepare the staff and the organization for the future; to improve customer service, service outcomes and above all to teach his staff how to relax, to reflect, to re-create and remind them of the sacredness and importance of this time. My managers love it.

So carve out a time for yourself and for your managers to focus on and to spend quality time building your team and growing your organization.

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Are You A Storyteller?

Once upon a time I was mesmerized by a story. Have you ever been mesmerized by stories that made you happy, sad, joyous or angry? Are you fascinated by those who touched every nerve in your body; those speakers who brought tears to your eyes and stirred an emotional, but passionate anger in your heart? After hearing that speaker; that speech, you knew you had to do something. You gave a donation; you volunteered; you were focused on the company’s goals. After hearing the CEO, the preacher, the club president, you supported the mission and you wanted to do your part to fulfill the company’s vision or spread the good news. Yes, you were motivated to do the right thing.

I have a secret. Effective leadership and storytelling go hand in hand. Have you ever thought of yourself as a storyteller? Think about it. As a storyteller you are both the messenger and the message and to be an effective leader you must learn to be a good storyteller. Howard Gardner states that not only should the leader be a good storyteller, but the leader must also “embody that story in his or her life. The leader is a symbol as well as a “keeper of the stories” (Spiritual Leadership, Henry & Richard Blackaby, 2001, p.80).

Think about the people you know who are good storytellers? This person can be someone in your faith community, your neighbor or someone at your job. This person could be a teacher, a friend, the mayor and yes, even your boss. What impact has this person’s storytelling had on your place of work; your social group, your neighborhood or your faith community? As he or she was telling the story did you also reflect on the person’s character? Were you more mesmerized by the story because of the messenger or was it the message alone that moved you to action? It’s wonderful when it is both!

Now, reflect on the time you moved a group forward through your storytelling. During a critical time in my church, I was able to defer the dismissal of our pastor through a compassionate story of forgiveness and second chances. On other occasions, I was able to move people because of the many stories I told about my uncle and grandmother. I portrayed how my grandmother and my uncle were my role models because of their faithfulness, their boldness and their commitment to what they believed in. I have a long tenure both in my church and at work and therefore, I am often asked by leadership about “how did we get here.” My hope is that I am asked to tell the stories, not only because of my tenure, but because they trust my intelligence, respect my character and see me as a leader.

In their book, Spiritual Leadership, Henry and Richard Blackaby said that “a story is a “compelling method of communicating vision…graphs and charts can convey data and engage people’s minds, but a story…can engage people’s heart and gain their commitment” (p.80, 2001). They also believe that leaders’ stories need to have three components: stories from the past, stories for the present and stories about future possibilities.

Yet another author, Charles Olsen, (Transforming Church Boards, 1995), persuasively argued that storytelling can enliven a church board and even energize a church body. He persuasively argued that history giving and story telling, along with biblical-theological reflection and prayerful discernment would move a church board past burnout and beyond “business as usual” to a board that can enthusiastically lead the faith community to visioning the future.

Storytelling possibilities are easy to imagine in churches, mosques or synagogues, but what about the business world. D. A. Benton believes that storytelling is one of 22 vital traits to becoming a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). She states that a good storyteller can set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd. A good storyteller gets involved with his or her thought processes; often paints pictures; usually humanizes his or her points and often will make him or herself colorful in the process as they tell the story (How To Think Like A CEO 1996). She said that “with storytelling, the scenic route gets you there just like the direct one, but you and the audience enjoy it a lot more” (p. 209). Storytelling helps “make information memorable, recallable, clear, useful and appropriate…and “the key for successful storytelling is [the ability] to fit stories into the conversation, have a good memory to recollect them for the proper occasion, and recall who has already heard them” (pp. 209-210).

Now let’s reflect one more time. Try to remember that story and the storyteller. Were you able to understand the messenger? Did you find the messenger interesting and were you persuaded that he or she was also smart? And finally, and more importantly, do you still remember the details of the story?

D. A. Benton writes that as a good storyteller, people will understand you better, that they will “remember what you say longer, find you smarter and [by the way] more interesting if you use good anecdotes to make your points” (pp.212-213).

So put your thinking cap on, practice that speech, and reflect how you can paint a picture, that will excite us, and above all, motivate us toward a more compelling and positive future. Are you a storyteller? Of course you are; we all are. Our goal now is to be a good storyteller. The end.

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