15 November 2011

Working on an update

For the three of four gentle readers wondering where my next post is, I spend some time recently with one of my mentors, and he gave me some good advice on clarifying my leadership message.  I'm incorporating his comments into my notes, and should be posting an update soon.  Thanks for checking in.

02 November 2011

Talent and Skill

At the outset of my discussion of the leadership and management traits I outlined in my previous post, I want to make it clear how important it is to understand that neither leadership nor management alone is enough.  I've discovered that highly effective people develop both.


Talent:  Everyone is talented at something.  Some people can play the piano, some can sing, I can do neither.  These are not my talents, but I have found what I am good at.  Later, when we get to an explanation of "Discovered" in the leadership trait list, I'll show you one way I discovered my own leadership ability.  I'll give you a hint right now: it's based on finding out what I'm good at (what I love) and what I'm not good at (what I loathe).

Skill:  While talent is finding what you're innately good at, skill can be described as finding what you can improve.  I believe the most important first step in skill development is to seek advice; a great place to start is Don Campia's book, "Taking Advice" (2006 Harvard Business School Press, Boston).  Admitting my shortcomings and seeking out the help of experts is a key step I use toward improvement.  Following their recent World Series win, no one would doubt St. Louis Cardinal first-baseman Albert Pujols' hitting talent, but here's what he says about it:

"I'm a really smart player. If you tell me something, I get it quickly. If there is something wrong with my hitting, tell me what's wrong and I'll pick it up right away. That's the best thing I have going for me, my ability to listen to a coach and fix what I'm doing wrong."

I've discovered that a common trait of people who get things done is their ability to admit their shortcomings and seek help to fix these things. 

27 October 2011

Lead/Manage Comparison

Over the next several blog entries, I will delve deeper into each of these comparison.

26 October 2011


So what is leadership?  Before we begin, I think it will be helpful to frame a definition of leadership by comparing it to its counterpart, management.  It's important that we define terms first, because Words Are Powerful.  We come from different cultures and we bring different experiences with us where ever we go – if you bring a belief that leadership is positional, not personal, then you may not understand what I write in this blog.  It's important then, that we have a common language of leadership in order for us to fully comprehend the complete message regarding The Four Directions.  So what is Leadership in this context?  Here's what General Colin Powell says about Leadership and Management:

"Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible."

Often the terms "leadership" and "management" are used interchangeably, but I believe they are very different.  In the next several posts, I'll compare and contrast leadership and management so you will have context for The Four Directions.

24 October 2011

How I got here

Have you ever heard someone say “so and so was been promoted to leadership”?  Often, when someone says this they mean to imply that the promotion itself was the de facto cause for anointing someone else a leader.  But here’s what I want you to consider: is Leadership something you get by promotion, or is it something you bring with you to a leadership position?  In other words, Is leadership positional, or is it personal?  When I was in the Army, I had more than one conversation about this with other officers.  Usually it would center around the observation that a disproportionate share of Generals were West Point grads, so the questions we asked ourselves was, “does West Point make the General, or do future Generals go to West Point?”  (A proverbial Chicken or the Egg dilemma.)
I did not consider myself a leader until about twenty years ago.  Growing up, I was never the one selecting the teams for playground baseball (I was, in fact, almost always selected last).  The youngest of four kids, no one asked for my opinion; I was expected to go along with family decisions.  As I grew older, I made most of my decisions based on what I thought was “right” (I’ll talk about the power of “the shoulds” in a later post) not on what I really felt compelled to do.  I made a lot of mistakes, but in the process I learned that I was a person of value, even if no one else was publically confirming my value.  I could make my own decisions, but I (and only I) was responsible for the outcome.  I began to lead myself.
Any number of people can speak more eloquently than I on the general nature of leadership – that will not be my focus.  These blog posts will be a recollection of my journey toward discovering that I can lead and that others will follow, if I am honest, open and humble (I’ll address each of these attributes of leadership in later posts as well).  My journey has been led by reading many great leaders write about their own leadership journeys, and I will refer to them often.  You can refer to my reading list on the right side banner if you’d care to read along.

23 October 2011

About this blog; welcome

Understanding and teaching leadership is a passion for me.  I do not believe that leadership is something that can be mastered, but something that one can get better at through training.  So I don't post as one who has arrived, but rather as one on the journey.

In this blog, I hope to share meaningful observations regarding what has been called the Four Directions of Leadership:   Leading Down, Leading Horizontally, Leading Up, and Self Leadership.  I'll explain the Four Directions and give examples of each as I go.  It's said that often the teacher learns more than the student, so you might guess that this blog is a key part of my own self-leadership, and you'd be correct.  Thank you for joining me on my journey.