VOCL 027 – Looking at Leadership Articles #11

Twitter Episode Focus: Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as leadership thoughts to keep in mind for 2014, how leaders should maintain a long-term view while allowing others to deal with today, sharing a vision, and yet another “definition” of leadership.  Now that baseball’s in full swing (bad pun […]

Written By chris

On April 26, 2014

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Episode Focus: Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as leadership thoughts to keep in mind for 2014, how leaders should maintain a long-term view while allowing others to deal with today, sharing a vision, and yet another “definition” of leadership.  Now that baseball’s in full swing (bad pun intended) we also look at leadership in sports, why people feel let down by their leaders, thinking about how we treat our followers, and how we should give them more control.  Finally, there’s an interesting article about doing nothing as a form of leadership!

VOCL Intro

Hi there!  Welcome to the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast.  I notice that I’ve been getting some new subscribers lately – I’m glad you’re joining the community!  My vision is to improve the quantity and quality of leaders in Canada (with a minor emphasis on the rest of the world) and you are part of the solution.  Not for me, but for a better world.  I want our community to grow and develop, spreading leadership messages across Canada much like food dye spreads through water.

  • Reminder about our newsletter – you can subscribe near the top on the left-hand side of the website – it’s a big red box!  I’m only looking for your first name and an email address.  You’ll get all the great content on a weekly basis, plus you can opt out at any time.  I’ve included a free bonus for signing up – you can now get a mindmap generated through the observations during the New Brunswick Study Group’s 2012 Governor General Canadian Leadership Conference.  You get to see what most leaders (government / business / labour / non-profit) assess as being the most important leadership attributes that you can possess.
  • Every week I have a goal of improving the website in some way.  Not only do I want the content to be relevant, but I want it to be easily accessible, too.  Accordingly, I’ve tidied up the menu.  The front page will always feature all of the content, but now you can select specific pages on podcasts, interviews, GGCLC, articles, etc., making it easier to get to the information that you need to become a better leader.  You can always use the magnifying glass in the upper-right-hand corner and type in a word that you are looking for (e.g., communication, vision).

VOCL Resources and Articles

This week –a random selection of 10 articles on different aspects of leadership.

6 Fundamentals That Can Make You A Better Manager in 2014” by Victor Lipman at Forbes

Although the title says manager, these fundamentals also apply to leaders.  The author offers six fundamental thoughts for 2014 (I think it applies to future years, too!):

  1. Be open to new ways of looking at things
  2. Expect excellence
  3. Make sure your employees know – clearly – where they need to focus
  4. Protect your time as if it were gold…
  5. Communicate regularly by providing meaningful feedback in real-time
  6. Don’t duck conflict, but deal with it directly and fairly

My favourite point is #5 – I consider communication a key aspect of leadership.  The hardest part is making sure that you are available to communicate – this includes receiving feedback.


For Leaders, Today is History” by Steven J. Thompson at LinkedIn

The author, CEO at John Hopkins Medicine International, tells us why he doesn’t focus on today’s problems – he leaves that to his subordinates.  Instead, he remains focused on the long-term vision. Self-admittedly, he says:

“It may sound as if I’m not very involved. But in fact, I am–just not in the here and now. That’s because as leader of this organization, it’s not my job to deal with what’s going on today. I really need to tune all that out, so I can focus on what might happen tomorrow. That gives me plenty to worry about–and makes everything else a distraction.”

Interesting thought piece.  Should the leader remain squarely focused on the future at the potential expense of today?  What do you think?

(Original article has been deleted)

How to Create a Shared Vision That Works” by Jesse Lyn Stoner at Seapoint Center

I am a strong believer that generating a vision for the group is one of the most important things that a leader can do.  This article does a fantastic job of capturing how to share that vision with your followers.  There are five main points:

  • Create a compelling team vision
  • Honestly describe the current reality
  • Identify key strategies and “Structural Integrity” that support moving forward
  • Plan for involvement and communication
  • Make personal commitments

Quite simply, this is a great roadmap on how to create, articulate and circulate the vision and ensure maximal team buy-in.  Thinking of all the articles that I have reviewed (hundreds), this one is my favourite!  What I love most about it is that for each of the five steps there are at least two links that delve further into the details of the step.

Vision is the main focus of Ken Blanchard and Jesse Lyn Stoner’s book: “Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and Your Life”.  The above article is a key component of the book and therefore has made the book a must-read for me.


A New Definition of Leadership” by Josh Misner, PhD at Huffington Post

I wrote about Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy!” initiative a few weeks ago.  Ban Bossy! means to avoid language-based gender stereotyping for leadership attributes for assertive behaviour – a boy would be labelled a leader (a positive attribute) whereas a girl would be labelled bossy (a negative attribute). The author of this article (a professor with a doctorate in leadership studies) states that there is a place for both leader and bossy in the dictionary and proposes a different concept of leadership.

The Ban Bossy! initiative has gathered some public criticism. The argument on why bossy should stay in the dictionary is captured in the author’s quote:

“There are times when bossy means bossy, whether for a boy or a girl.  There are certainly times when authoritative crosses the line into authoritarian, and a child, regardless of gender, needs to be taught the art of leadership.”

Where the article provides greatest value is in the second half – the proposal of a new concept for leadership. Traditionally “masculine” assessment qualities such as activities, tasks, objectives, goals, initiative, time and stress management must be merged with more “feminine” qualities such as empathy, vulnerability, humility, work-life balance, inclusiveness and patience. Essentially, this would result in a harmonious blend of “hard” and “soft” leadership attributes.


5 Leadership Bounty Lessons from Spring Training with the Pittsburgh Pirates” by Bill Treasurer at PRWeb

This article focuses on five leadership essentials placed in the context of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training as oriented by author Bill Treasurer.  The key points are quoted below – read the article to see why these have been identified as key points:

  1. Actively build leadership skills among your organization’s next generation of leaders to deepen the overall bench strength.

  2. Thinking about leadership isn’t enough. Leadership is something you do. Provide real opportunities for people to lead and take charge.

  3. Create an environment that encourages people to “own” their performance and mistakes. Embody personal accountability as a core value.

  4. Fire people up with one or two quick motivational messages, not every motivational quote you’ve ever heard.

  5. Get everyone striving for excellence by asking each person to improve performance by one tenth of one percent every day. It’s the best way to outperform average.

I like the second point – it’s not enough to just learn about leadership – like your muscles, you need to exercise leadership to become stronger as a person.


Why so many leaders are so lame” by Vince Molinaro at the Globe and Mail

This article looks at why people feel “let down” by their leaders, and provides four terms that leaders must internalize before taking on a leadership role:

  • Leadership is a decision – make it.
  • Leadership is an obligation – step up.
  • Leadership is hard work – get tough.
  • Leadership is a community – connect.

I really like the first point, except leadership is not always a conscious decision.  What about in times of crisis (or otherwise) – can you recall times that people started to look to you for answers, even if you weren’t the leader?


Is your project team like a light switch… or a candle?” by Gary Nelson at Gazza’s Corner

I love Gary’s podcasts on project management since I find them informative and entertaining – he is skilled at weaving a storyline around key leadership and project management points.  This article shines a light (yes, bad pun intended) on how we shouldn’t expect our teams to be like a light switch and simply immediately turn on a full brilliance.  Rather, we should take care of our teams and treat them more like candles (his acronym follows):

  • Care about your team
  • Ask their opinions about project matters
  • Nurture your team – get to know them personally
  • Develop their skills.
  • Lead, Mentor and Coach them, not just direct or dictate task assignments to them.
  • Engage with the team, one-on-one

This article is also available as an audio podcast – it is really worth the listen!


Bankable Leadership: How to give employees control” by Dr Tasha Eurich at Computer Dealer News

This article is an extract from the author’s book “Bankable Leadership” and focuses on empowering employees to improve their performance AND increase their satisfaction.  She provides several examples on how various organizations have empowered their employees, although the article itself does not give specific metrics on how much performance/satisfaction improved.  I was intrigued by her write-up of HCL technologies’ use of an internal help desk and electronic tracking “tickets” to help employees in solving workplace issues, and that only the employee that raised the ticket can close the ticket.  Sounds interesting, although it could also have the potential for abuse.

The author closes by providing six more ideas to empower your employees (actually, you could expand this to all of your followers, not just in business):

“Have them create agendas and / or run staff meetings”.

For the others, you’ll have to go read the article or her book…


Is leadership born or built?” By James G. Clawson at the Washington Post

Ah, the age-old debate on nature versus nurture.  Regardless of where you fall on the issue, this author takes a slightly different angle – it doesn’t really matter because leadership is more about being committed to achieving a vision.

“Find something you can devote your … life to, and then let that work in you until you’re vibrating with energy and enthusiasm — and you’ll find a way to get others to go along for the ride.”


Leadership 101: How Doing Nothing Makes You A Better Leader” by Jan Bruce at Forbes

No, you can’t be a leader by doing nothing – the somewhat misleading title would have you set aside a few periods for “doing nothing” (e.g., not checking emails) and spending that time “daydreaming, musing, creative visioning…”.  This gets you back to the core of why you became a leader of your particular organization or group in the first place.  The following tips are provided:

  • Stop being busy (easier said than done)
  • Clear the decks (sometimes going back to first principles can help you prioritize your time doing what you NEED to be doing)
  • Question your calendar (why is that appointment there?)
  • Daydream (set aside some time to visualize)
  • Do nothing somewhere else (sometimes you need to get away – this is NOT meant to justify a two-week trip to Maui (or does it…))
  • Try not solving just reviewing (complex problems may need some extra time to ponder)


VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes / Call to Action

Takeaways and introspection

  • For Leaders, Today is History.” Should the leader remain squarely focused on the future at the potential expense of today?  What do you think?
  • How to Create a Shared Vision That Works.”  Vision is a critical aspect of leadership.  What vision do you have, not just for your business or organization, but for your life?  Interestingly, I’m in the process of reading Michael E. Gerber’s “The E-Myth Revisited” where he talks about the need for entrepreneurs to have a vision.  I look forward to sharing the leadership-related aspects with you in a future article/podcast.
  • Is your project team like a light switch… or a candle?”  How are you treating your team?

I’m Chris Hache, asking you to be VOCL for a better Canada


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