Planting Seeds of Leadership

Growing up, I was fascinated by the self-propagation design of the milkweed plant.

A pod full of parachute-equipped seeds matures and swells. At the right time, it bursts open and the seeds take to the winds, creating new plants wherever they may end up.

As with so much that surrounds us. Oaks begin their career as acorns – perhaps a seed buried and forgotten by a busy squirrel, now growing into a mighty presence in the forest.

Leadership Chat was never meant to be an oak. It was destined only to be a means to spread seeds of leadership.

I look out the window here in my office and see our lovely red maple shading our deck. There are still a few helicopter-shaped seeds hanging on today, but mostly, that time has passed. Seed-time is short, then it’s on to watering, fertilizing, pruning, and (eventually) harvesting and propagating.

There is very little that you can build in 140-character bursts once a week on Twitter. What you can do, however, is spread seeds of thought, and challenge old ideas, and kick off new friendships. Ideas and inspiration can take wing on digital networks and land on waiting soil. That’s what on-line chats are best for.

After a year-and-a-half of hosting Leadership Chat, Lisa Petrilli (the best co-host a person could ever ask for!) and I have decided that our time for planting seeds in this format is done. We each have new opportunities and ongoing responsibilities that demand time and attention. Yet we look back with tremendous gratitude for the friendships, the community, the new initiatives that have grown out of this modest little experiment.

We’ve had the privilege of welcoming many guests to share their wisdom and experiences: from well-known public figures like Carrie Wilkerson, Guy Kawasaki, Brian Solis, and John Jantsch to other insightful authors such as Les McKeown, Keni Thomas, Angela Maiers, and Becky Carroll. We discussed and debated Male/Female Roles, Hubris, Loyalty, Decision Fatigue, Vision, On-boarding, Emotions, and many other topics covering quite a range of human experience.

But, above all, we’ve enjoyed each others’ company and support. Hopefully we’ve all learned a few things along the way, things that we’re putting into practice right now (and will continue so to do).

Of all those who have supported the Leadership Chat community, I want to especially thank the quiet man over in the corner, Mack Collier, who has been a pillar of encouragement throughout this entire time, even when lurking on Tuesday nights with his Dr. Pepper. And the privilege of not only collaborating with Lisa Petrilli, but building an enduring friendship, has been for me the greatest result of participating in Leadership Chat.

This Tuesday, May 29th, is Graduation Day. Let’s spend the time discussing what we’ve learned in the past 18 months or so – not merely head knowledge, but real-life hands-on leadership lessons. How have you changed and become more effective? In what practical ways? We look forward to being with you during our final edition of LeadershipChat (8 pm ET on Twitter – hashtag #LeadershipChat).

Image credit: Wikipedia

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

>> LeadershipChat: Transitions

The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

You can have boundless energy, a really hot product, great pricing, solid staff, and a top-of-the-line Lexus in the CEO parking space, and still go down in flames.

If you want to succeed (long-term) as a leader, as a business, as a consultant – really, as a person – then there’s one thing you absolutely need to have. One huge advantage. And it’s something that we can ALL acquire. Clear vision.

It can be a process getting to 20/20 clarity – sometimes, a lot of “doing” is what gets you to better “seeing” – but when you know who you are, what you want, what your core competencies are, what your differentiator(s) are, and how to express all that – you’re way ahead of the game.

I have pathetic uncorrected vision – my glasses have always been pretty thick (yes, I still have Lasik envy – maybe someday…). Without clear sight I won’t recognize obstacles, or see opportunities; I’ll just bump into stuff. Have you seen a lot of businesses that behave like that? I have. They’re not on a well-defined course because the destination isn’t clear, nor is the pathway to get there.

Success starts with clear vision at the top – leaders who know what rabbit trails to avoid because they can see the destination, and they have a reasonably clear roadmap.

For quite some time, Kodak had a well-defined place in the market, and a successful business model. But when digital began to upend the need for film, it soon became evident that this company did not have a clear vision of how to re-make itself, how to navigate in a rapidly-evolving world that was doing a complete market makeover. Or, as discussed in last week’s chat, there’s Yahoo. What’s their vision? Does anyone know?

On the other end of the size scale, I see someone newly-laid-off from a client company who has hung out his/her shingle as a consultant, without a single differentiating anything in the company message. “We just do the usual stuff, so hire us” might as well be the company motto.

Will Work For Food may get you a little cash flow for a while. But a far clearer understanding of what you will work for – and why – is the ultimate competitive advantage.

Join us tonight (May 22nd) at 8 pm ET as we discuss Clarity in Leadership during #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Be sure you give a good read to the prep post written by my talented co-host, Lisa Petrilli, Every Leader’s Achilles Heel (great image on the blog post, btw!). We look forward to an enlightening conversation during The Fastest Hour on the Internet.

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Seeing 20/20 in 3-D

>> LeadershipChat: Transitions (yes, we are winding down LeadershipChat after this month!)

LeadershipChat: Transitions

Markets change. Companies change. Circumstances change. And leaders transition in and out of their roles.

How is this handled? What are the upsides, the downsides, and the pitfalls of leadership transitions? That will be our topic of discussion for LeadershipChat this week.

In and of themselves, transitions are neither inherently good nor evil. They’re simply a fact of life. The reasons for them, and the way they are handled, make the difference between a positive and negative experience. Sudden transitions due to scandal or sub-par performance can rock the boat temporarily, but may lead to a better future in time. A well-planned and orchestrated succession of power is always the ideal, but even that doesn’t guarantee success. Let’s talk about the successes and failures we’ve seen, and the lessons learned.

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This topic of Transitions is timely for another reason. Lisa Petrilli and I launched LeadershipChat in October 2010, as a collaborative venture to build community, create discussion around leadership issues, and see how we could use the (then emerging) Twitter chat format to expand our networks. It has been a labor of love, and, by all accounts, a great success; the relationships spawned between members of the LeadershipChat community have been a source of wonder and joy.

However, in recent months, it has become clear to both of us that our professional lives are evolving in ways that make it impossible to continue hosting a weekly chat. Therefore, at the end of this month (May 2012), we’re going to wind down LeadershipChat. Lisa and I both began to wonder this year if LC had served its purpose. Over dinner in Chicago recently, we talked about how our decision to start up LC was conscious and purpose-full, and that at some point between, say, the next 8 minutes and 80 years, we were going to need to make a conscious decision about its continuance. Within 8 minutes of further discussion, we smiled knowingly at each other. It was time to retire LeadershipChat and move on to other endeavors.

So, after this week, there will be 2 more Tuesday night editions of LeadershipChat. The finale, on May 29th, we’ll call Graduation Day. We’ve chatted a lot, but as we all know, there’s a lot of “doing” ahead of us! We are grateful for the many who have supported this endeavor and participated so enthusiastically in LeadershipChat over the months. And I, in particular, am grateful for Lisa Petrilli, and the strong friendship we’ve established through this joint venture. A large amount of work behind the scenes has gone into orchestrating LeadershipChat, and I can’t imagine a more wonderful partner than Lisa (even though we’ve only seen each other IRL a total of 3 times!)

See you Tuesday night, May 15th at 8 pm ET, for The Fastest Hour on the Internet – LeadershipChat!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Chicago-style Leadership

>> I Went to SOBCon 2012 And All I Got Was…

Chicago-style Leadership

Last week, with about 150 others, I attended the SOBCon conference in Chicago (this was my 3rd year). This gathering always provides thought-provoking gems, along with great opportunities to deepen relationships (here is my quick review of the 2012 gathering).

I thought I’d list out three discussion points for this week’s LeadershipChat based on things said in the Windy City at SOBCon.

1. “Relationships always trump results.” (from Gary Goldstein). Overall, I agree with this perspective – even if projects go awry, the relationships built are the biggest benefit in the long run. But, what about in leadership? Is this always the case; or sometimes, is it really all about the results?

2. “The act of leadership is fundamentally an act of love.” (from Steve Farber). Hmmmm…here’s what Steve means by this (link to podcast). What do you think?

3. “Having a clear purpose makes it easier to say, ‘No.'” (from Tim Sanders). One of the responsibilities – at times, burdens – of leadership, is decision-making. I agree with Tim that one of the most efficient ways to reach decisions is to be crystal-clear on overarching purpose. But that’s not always easy to maintain in the heat of the battle, yes?

Join us as we discuss these topics – just use the hashtag #LeadershipChat and jump right in (and if you were at SOBCon, we’d love to hear your perspectives on these points!)

See you tonight, May 8th at 8 pm ET, for The Fastest Hour on the Internet – LeadershipChat!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Leaders and their Flagrant Fouls

>> (alt) Leadership

Competition in Leadership

This morning, I was reading a thought-provoking article in Forbes, titled: Why Women are the Worst Kind of Bullies.

Sample paragraph:

Workplace bullying is four times more common than sexual harassment and racial discrimination, found the same study. Girls are taught to be critical about each other from adolescence, and it’s particularly vicious among working women; from playing favourites to badmouthing colleagues.

Now I really can’t say one way or another whether gender is truly a measure of bullying intensity – I think anyone, male or female, who feels that a position of leadership is turf to be defended can develop pretty good skills at tearing others down.

Who among us has not been bullied at one point or another – or, worse, ripped someone else down who was perceived to be a threat? But also – who among us hasn’t competed for a position of influence and power?

Let’s face it – a big part of leadership is competitiveness, and we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. People compete. Leaders compete harder. Business is, in many respects, a competitive race.

So competition in leadership is here to stay. But where are the lines between personal striving to win, head-to-head competing, bullying, and harassment? That’s what we’ll discuss tonight during LeadershipChat (8 pm ET on Twitter – use the hashtag #LeadershipChat). And be sure to read my co-moderator’s post on the subject, The Only Way You Can Really Hurt Me (if you’re not yet acquainted with Lisa Petrilli, you really need to be!)

See you tonight, May 1st at 8 pm ET, for The Fastest Hour on the Internet – LeadershipChat!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Leaders and their Flagrant Fouls

>> (alt) Leadership

(alt) Leadership

For years, I’ve promoted the notion that there have to be better business structures than the status quo of traditional corporation. I don’t have a problem with capitalism or corporations per se – there has historically been a lot of value in those approaches and structures.

But note the key word there: historically.

Everything we see around us – every product, system, and approach – was designed for a past need. Does this mean we need to embrace all of these things for our present and our future? No. I don’t accept that.

I believe in high-quality, focused collaborative human networks as a superior way to unleash individual talent, find needed resources, refer targeted business, and grow professionals without the unnecessary superstructure of a hierarchical corporation (I call this approach the “co-operation”). I don’t just believe in it; in my business, I practice it.

Others are creating new alternatives, including this extremely interesting employee-ownership approach by John Lewis Partnership in the UK.

So, instead of a single-source view of leadership that involves scarcity, competition, and climbing a hierarchical ladder, we need to consider new approaches to business that will involve new (alt) leadership styles. What will they be?

That will be the subject of our discussion this coming Tuesday (April 24) during #LeadershipChat, 8 pm ET on Twitter. It is important that we not only question legacy approaches to leadership, but as Lisa Petrilli does here in her post, begin to prime the next generation with the tools to move forward based on new assumptions. See you on Tuesday night for The Fastest Hour on the Internet!

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Leaders and their Flagrant Fouls

>> How to Gain Influence – the hard way

Leaders and Their Flagrant Fouls

It seems that hardly a week goes by, without another person in a leadership position being flagged for dishonorable behavior, and in many cases, tossed out of the game.

In recent days, it was Bobby Petrino, head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, who was dismissed in disgrace for…well, read about it here. He joins Brian Dunn, just-departed CEO of Best Buy who also allegedly engaged in dishonorable behavior, and a whole host of other former leaders, from business people to clergymen, from politicians to sports stars, who held positions of honor and influence – then imploded.

Like it or not, we expect our leaders to be examples of responsibility, morality, and self-control. Fraud, deceit, self-dealing, and disloyalty are not on the list of desirable attributes when we describe an effective leader. It’s no wonder so many people root for a guy like Tim Tebow. Leadership with morality and sincerity, at a professional level in sports? Who knew? And it’s a sad commentary that we become so jaded by the dishonorable figures we’ve seen paraded before us, that many are just waiting to pounce, certain that anyone who actually might be the real deal MUST be hiding dirt somewhere.

But Tim Tebow is not perfect, and neither is anyone else. Every player gets flagged for a hold here, an intentional grounding there, maybe a bit of pass interference from time to time. It’s human to make mistakes. But the flagrant stuff, such as actually targeting people for injury – that’s not a mere stumble. That’s a cause of shame and dishonor. Misusing funds, lying to superiors, committing perjury, patronizing prostitutes – these feel a lot more like a gross violation of trust and responsibility.

So, where do we draw the lines in business? What should be chalked up to human imperfection, as opposed to dishonorable behavior leading to “dismissal for cause”? Can trust in a leader be re-built? Join us in a discussion of this topic – Leadership Honor and Dishonor – on Tuesday night, April 17th (8 pm ET) on Twitter during #LeadershipChat. And be sure to read my co-host Lisa Petrilli’s prep blog post, The Power of Leading with Honor and Self-Empowerment. See you on Tuesday night for The Fastest Hour on the Internet!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

>> How to Gain Influence – the hard way

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