The Privilege of Leadership

I find it easy to fall into the pattern of thinking of leadership as a burden, a responsibility. It is that, of course – no leader will deny it – but we also need to remind ourselves that it is an immense privilege.

Nothing good gets done without effective leadership. And if we’re in a position of leadership, people above us or below us (ideally – both!) have seen something in us that is a cut above the ordinary.

That vote of confidence is a privilege.

By and large, we humans are wired to attain. And while some things are solo endeavors, much attainment in life is reserved for directed and motivated team effort. For people to validate our vision and ability, and then follow our lead, is a sacred trust not to be taken lightly.

Yes, we’re all flawed leaders. We know our own flaws better than everyone else, right? (And, we hope that someone doesn’t find out just how inadequate we really feel at times!)

But if someone, by following, implies that we have something good to offer, then let’s take a moment and be grateful for the privilege. You may well be shaping a life that will prove to be profoundly impact-full in the future. As an employer, a coach, or (especially) as a parent, we who lead get to touch the future through multiplication of influence.

What legacy could be better than that?

Be sure to join us Tuesday night, November 22 (8 pm ET) as we discuss Gratitude and Leadership during the weekly #LeadershipChat on Twitter. And please read this post (Gratitude in Leadership: When Gratefulness Fuels Giving) by my talented and much-appreciated co-host Lisa Petrilli. Hope to see you then!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> Out with Klout. In with Cannoli!

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Twitter: @swoodruff

Out with Klout. In with Cannoli!

This post begins with Klout, and why (as of today) I’ve opted-out.

It ends with Cannoli.

One is more delicious than the other. Just saying.

My pal Sam Fiorella and I have had lots of tongue-in-cheek back-and-forth over the months about Klout, but the fact is, I agree with his reasoning here where he explains why he has pitched Klout overboard.

In brief, here’s why I’ve done the same:

1. I believe it is an artificial and inaccurate measure of true influence,

2. It reinforces behavior based on (apparent) reach rather than (real) depth,

3. It has no value to me, business or otherwise.

Instead of issuing Klout +K points to people, I prefer real network-building – like shared meals, shared laughs, shared life, and fruitful collaboration. Algorithms do not portray the type of influence that matters to me. And if you want to look at someone, first and foremost, through a Klout lens – well, we’re probably not going to get along anyway.

During #LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights, we have a habit of talking about cannoli – maybe it’s because a bunch of the participants are of Italian extraction, but I think it’s because a cannoli is simply, extravagantly, wonderful. We’ve even joked about awarding +K(annoli) points.

But forget the K – cannoli is all about the C. So, I’m just going to award people who mean a lot to me a nice, big, extravagant +C. Including an appropriate image, like this:

(btw, “cannoli” is the plural form – what you see above is a cannolo)

Meeting over a plate of cannoli (real or virtual) may not get you Klout perks, but I guarantee the benefits (and calories) are far greater!

Oh – and if you want to award someone the +Cannoli picture above, just copy-paste: http://bit.ly/Cannolo  Let’s #OccupyCannoli!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Maxim-izing Your Leadership

>> A Warning from (Un)Happy Valley

Maxim-izing Your Leadership

There are some books that you pick up, and you realize after 5 pages that it’s going to be a sacrificial labor of love to get through it.

Others, you sense immediately that your brainwaves are in sync with the author.

So it was (the latter) when I began reading One Piece of Paper by Mike Figliuolo (our guest host on LeadershipChat this week). Mike is the founder of thoughtLeaders and a prolific blogger on leadership topics.

Instead of giving a traditional book review (overview), I thought I’d share some immediate outputs. Mike begins the book by encouraging readers to identify their leadership maxims. Here is how he defines this foundational concept (p. 7):

A maxim by definition is a principle or rule of conduct…it is a short, personally meaningful, and easily explained statement that reflects one of your beliefs about leadership…your maxims will become your leadership conscience…maxims must be emotionally meaningful, so you need to delve into your personal experiences to find those phrases, images, and stories that stir you to your core.

Now, I will tell you that anyone that talks about distilled, clear, foundational principles is immediately my friend! Mike’s thesis is that an effective leader must define these personal maxims, and possess them top-of-mind so that they can guide behaviors (for you and your team) in the day-to-day process of leading.

Eschewing the use of buzzwords to define one’s purpose (note: another way to be my friend!), Mike writes that you must “find your passion and turn it into a leadership maxim by crafting a phrase or drawing on an image that evokes fulfillment and satisfaction.” His personal example: light bulbs – creating that moment of understanding in others. As he put it, “turning light bulbs on for people is why I am excited to go to work every day.”

At this point in the book, I decided to see if I could come up with something pithy and meaningful that pretty much was the reason to get up every day. And for me, it boils to down to three words:

Distill – Define – Connect

That is my passion, my maxim of purpose. Help others by distilling a mass of information, defining the core need or message, and connecting to the best resources. These verbs are, in fact, the foundational activities of my consulting practice. I’m a Connection Agent.

Now, there’s a whole lot more valuable stuff in this book, but this is your starting line. I’d encourage you to take 5-10 minutes, with one piece of paper, and just begin there – can you express the core motivators that drive you? Mike gives (p. 37) four helpful questions to get you rolling:

- Why do you get out of bed every morning?

- Why are you excited to go to work?

- When people ask you what you love to do, what is your response?

- What do you tell people you are really great at doing?

Come up with  your maxim (or at least start!), and share your results with us as we interact with Mike during #LeadershipChat on Twitter, Tuesday November 15th, 8 pm ET. And be sure to read the blog post of my lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli, with her take on Mike’s book (How to Discover and Live your Leadership Philosophy). We’re looking forward to another lively discussion at the LeadershipChat table!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Follow Your Lead? WIIFM??

>> Feeling Like a Leader

A Warning from (Un)Happy Valley

“Steve, we have found cancer in your body. It’s bad, it has the potential to spread, but the good news is that we caught it early. We want to operate right away, cut out the tumor, and follow-up with chemo and radiation to try to eradicate the disease and prevent it from spreading.”

“Doc, that sounds painful. How about we just wait and let it metastasize?”

You’d think I was nuts to give an answer like that. Fortunately, the fictional conversation above hasn’t happened. I would hope I’d have the sanity to choose early intervention instead of certain disaster.

Apparently, that didn’t happen at Penn State. Now Joe Paterno, one of the most respected coaches ever in college football, is out the door with a dark cloud over his head, as is the president of the university.

Many words will be written about this unfolding scandal in the coming days, but let us immediately take one crucial leadership lesson from this.

Get rid of the cancer. Early and thoroughly.

If you have a results-producing employee who is dishonest, don’t hesitate to fire him or her. If you have an executive who is unethical, escort them to the exit door. A coach named Sandusky was a tumor in the Penn State system. He should have been removed immediately.

Now it’s metastatic, affecting children, careers, an entire university. Look at the shame that has accrued to church organizations when similar evils have been unreported – even covered up. The evil doesn’t go away. It spreads. It goes from Stage 1 to Stage 4.

Enron. Lehman Brothers. Watergate. John Edwards. From high-flyers to Hall of Shame.

(and hellooooo, pharma executives)

We need more of what Dan Rockwell calls courageous candor. If you are a leader in an organization, and you’ve been hesitating to remove the tumor you know is there, consider the consequences downstream. Let the mess at Penn State be a warning.

A good leader, at times, has to be a good surgeon. Cut now.

(Feel free to join us every Tuesday night for LeadershipChat on Twitter, where we have no-holds-barred discussions on the practice of leadership in today’s world)

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Follow Your Lead? WIIFM??

>> Feeling Like a Leader

“Follow Your Lead? What’s In It For Me??”

We all know the expression (where did it come from, anyway? Anybody know??) – “Let’s not go there!”

If a topic for potential discussion touches a painfully raw nerve, we’d just as soon bypass that destination. Don’t go there! Why? Because we see only pain, no gain.

To “go there,” we need a compelling WWIFM (What’s In It For Me). And it’s the same with leadership of others. People will follow a leader – if the destination looks like gain that will outweigh any anticipated pain.

I hate to go all non-idealistic on you, but my buy-in to any vision and direction is correlated to my sense, my agreement, that the goal, and the leader, are aligned with my best interests.

However skillfully we paint the picture and seek to rally support, if those that are to follow us don’t want to “go there,” we’re not going to lead them there.

Now, if know me, you know I’m an idealist. And I firmly believe that people operate best when they are involved in a cause, a mission, much bigger than themselves. But I also know that, whatever the cause – however grand and sweeping and even sacrificial it may be – the engine that will drive a group of people to follow is alignment of interests that includes a clear WIIFM.

So – how do we get others to follow our lead? Bluntly put, it’s sales – not slimy, sleazy, lying sales, but selling nonetheless. It’s selling the vision – AND selling the benefits to the customer. If you’re a leader, you’re in sales – simple as that.

What was Steve Jobs of Apple, if not a consummate salesperson? He had to sell his entire organization on his vision of supremely great user experience – and, when it was time to step down, he also had to achieve buy-in that the next leader would carry on the vision. No small task!

Take everything my LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli wrote in her prep post for our discussion this week (Leadership Advice – Getting Others to Follow Your Lead). Package together Vision, Trust, Communication, and Energy, and what do you have? Effective selling (the kind that exists with integrity).

What do you think? How do you enable others to follow you? Join us for the discussion on LeadershipChat (#LeadershipChat on Twitter) at 8 pm ET Tuesday night, November 8th as we tackle this topic. You’ll find a group of warm, smart, and motivated friends who will welcome you to our weekly chat at the leadership table!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Selling You

>> Choose Your Lane

Feeling Like a Leader

Ben Kenobi: Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.

Luke Skywalker: You mean it controls your actions?

Ben Kenobi: Partially, but it also obeys your commands.

As the wise Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi described the Force in Star Wars, so I would describe the leader’s relationship to his/her feelings – which is the topic of #LeadershipChat on Twitter this week.

Having and displaying emotions – and passions – is not necessarily a sign of joining the Dark Side. In fact, it’s just humanity. The key to effective leadership in relationship to emotions, however, is neither total suppression nor unfettered expression – it’s self-control (I do not have issues with the “c”-word, but if you do, substitute self-management – same meaning in this context).

At the risk of sounding like the semi-stoic Yankee that I am (my LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, provides the hand-waving Italian side of the equation!), I believe that it is important for any leader to have a strong filter through which “feelings” are passed before making their way out through our face, vocal cords, and actions. A red-faced, profanity-spewing, coffee mug-throwing “leader” is going to quickly find a following of cowed and fearful yes-men – or, just as likely, a place on the unemployment line.

It’s easy, however, to think of self-control as only on the side of throttling feeling. For some us (hand raised), it is actually a matter of learning to release passion and feeling. We don’t talk or think about that much, do we? It’s possible to have such a firm hand on all expression of emotion that people-motivation is lost due to cool detachment.

I still remember the heated rebuke from a boss in a factory where I worked one summer, when I pulled a stunt that I thought was funny (he seemed to have a different opinion). There was appropriate and highly motivating anger expressed. I didn’t need a clinical explanation of the undesirability of my actions. I needed a kick you-know-where, delivered with feeling. Lesson learned.

I would not want to follow a passion-less leader. Nor would I want to hitch my wagon to someone who is emotionally unstable or out-of-control. Both of those extremes raise red flags. Give me someone passionate about a worthy cause or goal, and able to express the range of human emotion appropriately (without all kinds of shrapnel-induced collateral damage from emotional excess). More accurately, give me someone growing in the practice of self-control, because we’re all in process.

Join us tonight as we discuss the Leader and Feelings – we have a special guest joining us, the @LeadershipFreak himself, Dan Rockwell! Here’s is Dan’s prep post (Control your Feelings – Don’t Express Them); and to further get your wheels turning, here is what Lisa Petrilli has written (Should Leaders Bring Feelings and Passion to Work?)

You DO want to join us for LeadershipChat at 8 pm ET. Search your feelings – you know it to be true!

And, in fact, to increase your feelings of motivation – we’ll be giving away 7 mobile device carrying cases, courtesy of the fine folks at CaseSMPL. Three are iPad/tablet size, one is thin-laptop size, and three are handheld size. High quality and versatile (I use mine regularly – see also Drew McLellan’s glowing review). If Obi-Wan or even Darth Vader were to have a mobile case for devices connected to the Force, undoubtedly this would be the choice!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Selling You

>> ROI in Context of Business Value

Esprit de Corps

In preparation for this week’s LeadershipChat (8 pm ET Tuesday on Twitter – use hasthtag #LeadershipChat), I read, as did my co-host Lisa Petrilli, the book Get It On by Keni Thomas (who will be our guest host/author this week – thanks, Keni!)

Keni served with the U.S. Army Rangers during the famous Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia, and now has a burgeoning career as a country singer. This book is about the leadership lessons learned during his time in the military.

Lisa has written a superb summary of the book on her blog – I’d urge you to read it to get the overview of leadership lessons.

The book is an engaging first-person account of what happened on that day of chaos and combat, and much of its value lies in telling the very personal stories of the men involved in the operation. Dedication and leadership in the midst of the “fog of war” is not some abstraction – this book gives names, backgrounds, specific actions, and the very personal impact of courage on the battlefield.

Underneath all of the specific lessons of leadership, I was left with one pervasive theme fueling all the courageous actions of that day: esprit de corps.

You lead, you fight, you sacrifice, you risk – for your brothers in arms, and for the mission. No surrender, no turning back, no man left behind.

My son is a Marine. He’ll moan and groan with the best of them about the inefficiencies and snafus of the military, but if he’s put in a hot zone with his buddies, I have no doubt that he’ll have their back – and they’ll have his. Esprit de corps.

It’s in the culture of the military, especially its elite units. It’s not an optional add-on. It’s the fuel that drives the organization, and the mission, forward.

And, today, that leaves me scratching my head. How can we replicate this in non-military life? How can this powerful force be a foundation stone of leadership in education, and business – let alone government?

How many companies and organizations have this kind of unity of purpose? Not in theory, but in reality?

I don’t know. Somehow I don’t think a few training programs on leadership, and some team-building exercises, are going to cut it. Let’s discuss during LeadershipChat on Tuesday night, and maybe Keni (and you!) can give us some insight.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Dynamite Presentations: Start Here

>> Breaking Free of Powerpoint

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Who Leadership Chat Has Meant To Me

This is the one-year anniversary of #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Lisa Petrilli and I have been asking people what LeadershipChat has meant to them; some have posted on their blogs (click on the orange link above).

But as I think about my own experience co-leading the chat, I can only think about the WHO. Leadership Chat is about people – wonderful people – and here are some of my memories:

Long discussions and growing collaboration with Sean McGinnis.

Brainstorming and friendship with Fred McClimans.

Having coffee with Brandie McCallum, and speaking at an event she helped organize.

Sharing a drink and giving virtual Klout points to Sam Fiorella.

Finally meeting the irrepressible Meghan Biro after many Tuesday nights with “competing” chat (they finally moved #TChat. Heh.)

Marveling that overseas LC community members like Kenny Rose and Ali Handscomb stay up ’til all hours to participate.

Ongoing “banteraction” (that’s banter-interaction) with pals like Joe Cascio, Kirsten Wright, and Amy Fitch.

A spontaneous and wonderful Italian lunch in Boston with Lou Imbriano.

Moving beyond just pharma-connection into leadership-talk with Mike Capaldi and Kevin Glover.

Getting into friendly on-line debates with Dan Perez.

Seeing the Kneale Mann LC promo tweet. Every Tuesday. 8 pm ET.

Starbucks with Cheryl Burgess here in NJ.

Meeting young adventurer/entrepreneur Greg Hartle in Chicago.

Joking about shoes with Angela Maiers (finally met!) and Tobey Deys (still not met!).

Co-designing a chat client (ChatTagged) with Shannon Whitley, and having fans like Jessica Northey really enjoy it.

Gathering at SOBCon with LC community members like Jeanne Male, Darrell DeRochier, Lisa Diomede, Molly Cantrell-Kraig, Anthony Iannarino, Judy Martin, and others.

Getting a chance to highlight and interact with multiple authors as guests (Becky Carroll, Stephen Denny, Guy Kawasaki, Ann Handley, Steve Farber, Wally Bock, Lou Imbriano, Les McKeown) in order to gain new perspectives from thought-leaders.

Joking about dial-up modems and Dr. Pepper with Twitter chat pioneer and regular participant Mack Collier.

The Cannoli Crew.

And, of course, best of all has been the chance to work in partnership with the lovely and talented Lisa Petrilli in building this community. You see, Leadership Chat is not merely a virtual gathering of like-minded yet diverse people – we seek to grow into face-to-face relationships, gatherings, and collaborations. And that is just what is happening.

The danger, of course, with any list like this, is that at my age, I’m forgetting some folks. But even if the list is partial, you can see the very real, very tangible value of LeadershipChat. It’s not just the What. It’s really about the Who.

Will you celebrate with us Tuesday night, Oct 11, 8 pm ET? Here’s how you can participate! And be sure to read Lisa’s post on what Leadership Chat has meant to her!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Breaking Free of Powerpoint

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

LeadershipChat Plus One

After a few months of planning, it was one year ago this week that Lisa Petrilli and I hosted the inaugural #LeadershipChat on Twitter.

What a wild ride it has been!

We’ve had very lively discussions about male and female roles, courage, work/life balance, loyalty, fear, promotions, lessons from the military…and we’ve enjoyed the contributions of stellar guest hosts and authors like Stephen Denny, Guy Kawasaki, Ann Handley, Steve Farber, and many others.

For Lisa and me, the most rewarding aspect of LeadershipChat has been the community that gathers each Tuesday night; it was our vision to create a climate similar to a Tuscan dinner table, where friends would gather for friendly discussions over wine and good food (we do sometimes open up the chat with pictures of cannoli just to gain a virtual bit of dessert atmosphere!) What has come of it all has been a bunch of real-life friendships, meetings, and collaborations – and that’s just the point. LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights is an introduction to community.

What has been the most rewarding aspect for you? It only seems right, on this first anniversary, to pass the microphone to our valued friends and give you the opportunity to talk about how you’ve benefited from the LeadershipChat community – and how you’d like to grow even more in the year ahead.

So, here’s what we’re asking for this week. Instead of focusing on prep blog posts that Lisa and I write, we’re inviting YOU to write a post (could be on your blog, or Facebook, or Google+ – wherever. Even in the comments below if you’re not a blogger!) expressing what you’re learned and enjoyed from LC this past year, and what you’d like to discuss in the coming year.

This is your chance to tell others – and us – why LeadershipChat has value to you!

We’ll link to your posts on the LeadershipChat.net site, and your thoughts will be the substance of the our conversation on Tuesday, October 11th. Please write your thoughts right now – while you’re thinking about it – and forward the link to Steve (steve at connectionagent dot com) so it will be included on the site for all to see.

Finally, a big THANK YOU to all who have made this community such an encouraging success. In twelve months, we’ve made a good start together. What will the next year of sharing leadership-life bring? Let’s talk about it this Tuesday night at 8 pm ET!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Breaking Free of Powerpoint

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Leading Virtually Really

This week on #LeadershipChat, we are honored to welcome Ann Handley, who is the Queen Of All Content over at MarketingProfs (OK, I made that title up, but really – doesn’t it fit?)

MarketingProfs is a virtual organization, and Ann has been involved for years in helping lead this widely-distributed group as it puts out a steady flow of solid content, organizes and runs conferences, services member needs, etc. It’s quite a challenge.

My co-host and co-founder of LeadershipChat Lisa Petrilli has a wonderful interview of Ann (Ann Handley’s Secrets to Successfully Leading Virtual Teams) where you can gain more particular insights.

In talking with Ann about this topic, what strikes me is this thought: Leading People Virtually is Leading People Really.

Whether you’re contained in an office, fully virtual, or in a hybrid environment, you’re leading people. The basic, foundational principles remain the same – communication, accountability, shared goals and purpose, clear lines of responsibility. And, with our maturing technology tools (on-line project management, video Skype, social media) it is more likely that we will increasingly grow comfortable with leading virtual teams – because we’ll have to.

Let’s face it – the old template of geographically-defined work places is going away for many areas of industry, especially the knowledge industry. Leading virtually is going to become, in many respects, the new normal. And it’s good to know that the core things that have always mattered in leadership carry right over – because people are people.

Ann has a lot more experience than most at this, and yet it boils down some very sensible themes. Although one aspect – leadership styles – should make for a very interesting part of the chat. Do you think introverts make better virtual leaders?

Join us Tuesday night at 8 pm ET as we explore this fascinating topic. You’ll find a smart, engaged group of growing leaders who want to share ideas and learn from others (including you!).

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Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Facebook’s Secret Weapon Unveiled: Ann Handley!

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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“Hey, Boss, You Need Some Help…”

One thing is certain – you work with someone who could become a better boss (even if self-employed, like me!).

But what if your boss is really lacking in leadership skills, to the point where it’s becoming a serious detriment to the business, and negatively impacting those whom he/she is leading?

If you’ve worked at a few different companies, you’ve probably run into this situation. And it will be our topic of discussion tonight (Sept. 13) on LeadershipChat (please join us on Twitter at 8 pm ET – use the hashtag #LeadershipChat).

I’ve been there, and it can be a real conundrum. You want to see the company be healthy, and you want the best for your co-workers – including your boss – but it can be risky to go out on a limb and try to address issues with someone else. Here are a few words of advice:

1. Recognize that, by and large, people do not fundamentally change all that much. Are you dealing with a small habit here (a tendency to sneer when talking to people), or a major character flaw (an explosive temper)? Realizing that someone in a subordinate relationship will typically have the least sway, is it realistic to think that your words can make a difference? If you’ve seen a willingness to listen and think in your boss, some level of humility, then you stand a much better chance of success than if the person is arrogant and dismissive.

2. Do you have a pre-existing relationship of trust and transparency with your boss? If so, there’s a far better chance that you can privately and convincingly address the issue(s) at hand.

3. Speak in private, in a non-volatile setting. Lunch at a restaurant may be a good suggestion, because it is away from the office, and it gives time to digest and discuss the issue before facing the next work task. Also, you’re less likely to be screamed at in a public setting!

4. Affirm what is good, and demonstrate how flaws typically are an over-extension of a particular strength. For instance, an anger problem may be framed as an undesirable outgrowth of genuine business passion. It’s easier for your boss to save face before you, and before the mirror, when the flaw is positioned this way (note: this principle carries in many areas of life, does it not??)

5. Bring up very concrete situations – preferably quite recent – and explain the effect that occurred. To say to a boss, “you’re too indecisive,” isn’t going to be received as well as saying, “I have noted a tendency toward indecisiveness and here is how it impacted this sales situation last week – we may well lose that sale because I could not give the client a definitive answer on Wednesday when they asked for it.”

6. Explain how a certain characteristic or behavior makes you/other people feel. Often people are oblivious to the downstream effects. However, if you can show that your boss’ tendency to deliver cutting remarks when someone makes a mistake “freezes” employees from giving valuable input, it may help you boss connect the dots (“Hmmm…I’ve been wondering why no-one volunteers ideas in our brainstorming sessions…”)

7. Affirm your own commitment to the company’s good, and that of your boss. It’s easy for someone on the receiving end of correction to feel like they’ve lost face, and destroyed their influence. Let him/her know that you’re out on a limb bringing this up because you’re committed.

8. Continuously build an opportunity network as your contingency plan. It’s a lot easier to do the right thing when you know you have dozens of great people who have your back. Should you need to start looking for a new position, because the situation with a boss is intolerable, that is not the time to start networking – that’s the time to activate the network you’ve been building for years to help you find your next opportunity.

Be sure to read Lisa Petrilli‘s take in her post, Five Suggestion for When Your Boss Needs Leadership Help. Add Lisa’s five to my eight, and you’ll have 13, before we even begin getting more suggestions during the chat from all the great people who attend!

So, please join us at 8 pm ET Tuesday nights for LeadershipChat on Twitter. You’ll find a very smart and highly-motivated group of professionals who want to bring humanity and reality to leadership!

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Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

I Think I Need Some Leadership Chocolate

We’re going to talk about “decision fatigue” during LeadershipChat this week (8 pm ET Tuesday), and for me, this is a timely subject.

Rarely will I strongly recommend that people read a long, in-depth newspaper article. However, the basis for our topic is this fascinating NY Times article on the subject of decision fatigue by John Tierney, which outlines a fascinating premise – that our capacity to make decisions declines over time as we become fatigued by decision after decision.

There’s also some great justification toward the end of the article for keeping some chocolate at hand if you’re a decision-making leader…!!

I’ve done manual labor, which is physically fatiguing, and I’ve done mental labor, which creates its own weariness. But nothing has created more fatigue for me than being a husband and father, while simultaneously being an entrepreneur.

Responsibility. Leadership. Decisions. Initiative. 24/7.

As the article describes it, you get to a point where resistance becomes low, and the default/status quo gets chosen more often out of sheer fatigue.

While I haven’t had a chance to think it all the way through, I suspect that two other streams of fatigue can exacerbate the problem:

  • Failure fatigue – where professional setbacks outnumber successes, and
  • Delay fatigue – where success or goal fulfillment seems to perpetually stay just out of reach.

I don’t have any great answers here, but I certainly see the problem in my own experience! And I hope our discussion during the chat can provide a boost of much-needed leadership chocolate.

Be sure to read Lisa Petrilli‘s take on decision fatigue in her post, The Best Time to Ask Your Boss for a Raise (hint: it’s not late afternoon!)

Make your decision to join us at 8 pm ET Tuesday nights for LeadershipChat on Twitter. You’ll find a very smart and highly-motivated group of professionals who want to bring humanity and reality to leadership!

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Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Rethinking the Promotion Ladder

You do a great job in your role, and what is the expectation?

“Promotion” to a new, (seemingly) higher-up role. Bigger title, more base pay. The reward for great performance is moving up the ladder.

There are are only two problems with this. The nature of the reward. And the nature of the ladder.

I do a lot of my work with pharmaceutical companies. Specifically, I often work with people in sales training and brand marketing. Where do these people come from, and how do they get into those positions?

Generally, they are promoted from the sales force. Part of the ladder-climbing process, the reward mentality, is doing a headquarters rotation in one or two in these roles, as part of your “professional development”. Field sales to HQ role to field sales management to….The details may be different, but the general approach exists in lots of other industries.

Take the best performers and move them on up into more prestigious roles.

I get the concept, but here’s what I see over and over again – people who are great performers in one role may very well be unsuited for the next role up the ladder, where quite different skill sets and even personality makeups are required. Does a great salesperson make an effective trainer, or regional manager, or marketer, or project manager, or cubicle dweller? Sometimes, yes. Often, no. And spending one or two or three years in a role only to move up to the next rung often means that just as someone begins to develop new skills, they’re pushed on to the next thing as a reward.

So, I have the following questions for the mindset that fuels this practice:

1. Is it healthy to view the promotion process with a scarcity mentality – there are a smaller and smaller number of positions for advancement as you climb the ladder, so you must do whatever you can to advance (and compete with co-workers)?

2. Is it right to seek to develop people through a pathway that focuses on broadening a bunch of skills and experiences rather than focusing on the key, core skills that led to initial success?

3. Is the best reward system an upward pathway into new and (very) different roles? Are there not alternate ways to reward and promote people, especially those with relatively narrow skill sets?

4. What is the true cost-benefit ratio of instability – moving people around geographically, swapping managers, temporary relationships with co-workers and clients – when the promotion ladder is the holy grail?

I’m not saying there’s an easy answer to any of this. I just think we need to start asking some questions about what we assume is the proper pathway to professional advancement. What do you see as the pros and cons of the type of system I’ve described – and have you seen other approaches that work better? Discuss in the comments, or better yet, join us at 8 pm ET tonight (Tuesday, August 23) for #LeadershipChat on Twitter as we discuss the topic of promotions. Be sure to read Lisa Petrilli‘s (my co-host) blog post on the topic, When an Underperformer Gets Promoted.

It’s sure to be a lively discussion – we usually have 100+ smart people participating from all over the globe. Join us and let’s learn from one another!

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Work-Life Merger

For the next two weeks of dynamic discussion on #LeadershipChat (on Twitter, 8 pm ET, Tuesday nights), we’ll be talking about work-life balance.

This is a complex topic and there are very smart people who have put a lot of thought into it. So, why not make it more complex? Let’s think a bit about work-life merger.

Have you ever watched Little House on the Prairie? During the pre-industrial age in our country, the whole distinction between work and life was probably little discussed. Life was work, work was life. As transportation became more efficient, however, and as goods began to be manufactured in large-scale ways (as opposed to, say, an agrarian society and localized work), work became a distinct entity apart from the rest of one’s “life.”

Yes, I know that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but bear with me a bit.

What many of us are now asking, in the knowledge/network era, is this….is such a distinction as meaningful as it once was?

As long as we are working for someone else – some larger corporation or entity – we are trading certain levels of our expertise for money in a format that separates us, somehow, from home, family, and personal time. Hence the work-life balance.

But now, many of us work for ourselves – work on project basis instead of employee basis – we trade our expertise for money in a fashion that allows us to not necessarily be away (in some rigid 9-5 fashion) from “home.” The digitally-networked world enables this.

For some, this opens up an even larger Pandora’s box – are we ever off the clock, then? Are we bound to our work 24/7 because we’re always only a smartphone ping away?

I prefer to think of it in a more positive fashion. Like the farmer of old, my work is my life. It’s my field, I work it in the way that I choose to. I work whenever, and from wherever, I wish. If I am inspired at 5 in the morning to write, I write. If I take a few hours in the afternoon (as I did yesterday) to assemble a trampoline with my boys, I do so. I don’t really think much about work-life balance, because it’s just living and working with a lot more freedom to make choices.

Not everyone has this luxury – yet. Or is it a luxury? Maybe it’s part of what we’re looking for, with this elusive work-life balance. Yes, I am a strong advocate of entrepreneurship. Because I think that people are happier working their own field, and living on their own farm.

Rigid externally-imposed work environments, by definition, will limit freedom of choice and the ability to find personal balance. I applaud individuals and companies that try to figure it out. But I really prefer life-work.

Join us tonight (July 26th) at 8 pm ET for #LeadershipChat on Twitter. We will focus on the topic of Work-Life Balance – and, be sure to read my  Lisa Petrilli’s post entitled Leadership in the Age of Work-Family Conflict.

Plus – we’re going to try something new this week and “chat” on Google Plus at the same time we’re on Twitter!

At 8:00 pm ET, 8:15 pm ET, 8:30 pm ET and 8:45 pm ET Lisa I will ask the same question on Google Plus that we’ll be asking on Twitter.  You can find me on Google Plus at www.gplus.to/connectionagent – Lisa is www.gplus.to/lisapetrilli.  Find us, Circle Us, and watch for our posts at those 4 times tonight!

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It’s Not About You

Almost two years ago, we sent our second son off to U.S. Marine Boot Camp. It is safe to say that, up until that time in his life, it was all pretty much about him – you parents of teens get my drift?

Thirteen weeks later, it wasn’t.

One of the first lessons of the military is that it is mission first. It is your teammates first. In fact, during the first stage of boot camp, the recruits cannot use the first person singular. They cannot say, “I….” – it has to be, “This recruit….”

We can rightly praise a number of leadership principles or practices, but nothing is more central than this other-centeredness. Disastrous leadership decisions based on short-term, selfish motivations take their toll every day in the arena of business.

I’ve just begun reading the highly-acclaimed book Reckless Endangerment, which takes the cover off the people and practices that lead to our recent economic meltdown. The me-first, greed-driven, short-sighted thinking described (and the book names names) is the exact opposite of genuine leadership – and some of these folks are still in positions of national influence.

Yes, some aspects of military leadership style need modification for the business world. But we’d be far better off if no company ever promoted an “all about me” individual into leadership, no matter how gifted or successful in other roles they may be.

We don’t need more recklessness. We need unselfishness. People who adhere to a higher mission than, “me first!”

Join us tonight (July 26th) at 8 pm ET for #LeadershipChat on Twitter. We will focus on the topic of “Military Leadership – Lessons We are Truly Meant to Learn” and will feature Guest Host, Wally Bock. Here is Wally’s summary post about tonight’s topics on his Three Star Leadership blog; also be sure to read my co-host Lisa Petrilli’s moving post entitled Leadership Lessons from Heroes, the Bravest of Men.

And, to make your chat experience even more enchanting, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions!

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Enchanting Your Employees

Guy Kawasaki opens Chapter 10 of his most recent book, Enchantment, with these words: “Here’s another Japanese word: bakatare. It means ‘stupid’ or ‘foolish,’ and it’s the perfect description of people who think disenchanted employees can enchant customers.”

Wow. Bold statement. I happen to think he’s right.

Lisa Petrilli and I have invited Guy to be our guest on Tuesday, July 5th for #LeadershipChat on Twitter (8 pm ET), and we’ll be talking about Enchantment. One topic we’ll address is the under-appreciated role of enchanting employees.

My experience over the decades with employees and other organizational leaders is that very few “get” this. They’re too busy treating underlings as a means to an end to really value them. And how will employees then treat customers, partners, and suppliers? To ask the question is to answer it.

Guy proposes that we provide employees with a MAP – an opportunity to achieve Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. More than mere money, people are driven – enchanted – by these higher-level motivators. And when they are empowered to serve the customer (not just a rule book), they will care about their work.

Many of us have walked into Apple stores. And most of us have been forced to experience the Department of Motor Vehicles in our respective states. Where did you find delight and enchantment among employees? Here’s the challenge – how could a DMV actually provide a MAP for its employees?

Join us as we discuss leadership enchantment tonight on Twitter. And if you haven’t already, pick up a copy of Guy’s compact guide to Enchantment – it’s sure to make you more….well, enchanting! (special offer here; my prior video blog review of Enchantment here).

And, to make your chat experience even more enchanting, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions!

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Unconstructive Feedback – A Leader’s Guide

When Lisa Petrilli and I launched Leadership Chat last year, one of our hopes was that we would, at times, provide a point-counterpoint perspective.

Turns out that we actually agree on an awful lot, though we do tend to approach things from different angles.

But this week, we’re on opposite sides of the fence. Lisa writes about Giving Constructive Feedback in this 8-point post. And that’s all well and good – but what about those leaders who really want to excel in Unconstructive Feedback? Who’s giving them guidance?

I am. So, in the interests of conforming to the recently-enacted No Stupid Left Behind Act, here are my eight counterpoints:

1. Delay is critical. Disassociating feedback from action will help create the desirable sense of confusion that keeps employees on their toes. It is best to wait a day, a week – even a year – before telling George, “Hey, that time you talked about our company history in the presentation to that client? – it was too long-winded.”

2. Keep it vague. What you want is maximum guilt feelings spread over the widest possible range of behaviors. Instead of focusing on a specific typo in an email message, and the potential confusion that it may have caused to a small group of people, simply say, “Your writing leaves a lot to be desired.” That sort of generality will encourage better performance in all circumstances!

3. Focus on the abstract. Instead of looking at how a particular behavior impacted a particular circumstance – the why and how – move to higher levels, such as, “You’re a superb demotivator. Why don’t you stop it?” That way, any number of behaviors and attitudes can be ranged under one overarching criticism.

4. Exaggerate everything, being sure to put each criticism in the worst possible light. Remember – people don’t understand context. So just bring the maximum firepower for maximum effect. The question you always need to ask yourself: “Can we go all scorched-earth on this transgression?” Make it memorable!

5. Make it hard-nosed. Underlings have to be kept in line. You’re not there to make friends. You were made a leader to enforce policy. Period. Remember – you can’t fix stupid, but you sure can enjoy yelling at it!

6. Keep ‘em guessing. While criticizing undesirable behaviors, be sure to leave the alternative along the lines of, “I’m really expecting you to do better.” That way, they never quite know if they’re getting it right, which could lead to complacency.

7. Monitor behind closed doors. Tell them they’d better get it right, and that you’ll be watching. They were hired to do a job and they need to know that you’re not there to babysit. If they want a coach, they can go back to high school and join the football team.

8. Let them know that they are right on the bubble. The best workers are those who fear for their jobs continually. Use the word “expendable” liberally when upbraiding them for their marginal performance. This will extract the maximum effort from their dissolute souls.

Lisa, I know you meant well. But, really – I have far more “leaders” on my side. My principles are embedded in so many organizations, and they are passed down from generation to generation by countless corporate scribes and practitioners. In fact, I’ve been meaning to tell you – all of your blog posts really leave a lot to be desired – I’m expecting better! :>}

(yes, dear readers, all of the above is sarcastic spoofery. If only it weren’t so common in practice, however!)

So, what do you think – Steve’s view of feedback, or Lisa’s? Join the discussion on Twitter tonight during #LeadershipChat (8 pm ET) and let’s talk about how to give constructive – or not – input.

(Image credit – Wilted Rose)

PLUS – big news! Special guest host joining us for next week’s LeadershipChat (July 5th) – author and all-around smart fellow Guy Kawasaki (we’ll talk about leadership principles from his book Enchantment). Don’t miss this one!

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Praise or Flattery?

Praise is sincere. Flattery has an underlying motive.

Praise acknowledges what is true. Flattery overstates for effect.

Praise builds up. Flattery butters up.

Praise is nourishing. Flattery is junk food.

Leaders have a great responsibility and privilege – helping others grow and improve. Heartfelt and appropriate praise is one of the ways we can reinforce what is good. It is a spotlight on that which is exemplary, for the recipient (and others) to see. It should create aspiration.

It’s part of being on the gold standard of leadership.

I know someone professionally who is constantly overstating the value of others. When you’re described with too much sparkle too soon, and too often, you can’t take it seriously. I think it is meant to create good will, but it comes across as hollow and forced. Everything then has to be taken at a discount – it’s a verbal form of printing money (some of which feels counterfeit). Not gold standard.

On the other hand, I can tend to be too parsimonious with praise. And that can be discouraging, causing people to think that I’m impossible to please. Too much New England reserve isn’t necessarily a helpful leadership trait! The best remedy is to remember the effect – sometimes profound – that others have had on me when they’ve given sincere and encouraging praise.

No leader is going to get this perfectly right all the time. What or who has helped you become better at this important leadership trait? Please share in the comments – and join the #LeadershipChat community as this topic is discussed at 8 pm ET tonight (6/21) on Twitter. In preparation, be sure to read the post by my talented co-moderator, Lisa Petrilli, on Mastering the Powerful Art of Praise.

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First Twitter Chat M&A Activity Announced!

The on-line rumor mill is buzzing with the news that #LeadershipChat has made an unsolicited (but friendly) bid to acquire #TChat (TalentCulture Chat) for a sum equaling a 3.5x annual revenue multiple, plus a hashtag to be named later.

“For months, we’ve been eyeballing #TChat’s growing audience, which occupies the same time slot (8 pm ET Tuesday) during which we convene,” stated Steve Woodruff doppelganger Connection Agent, co-founder of #LeadershipChat. “In fact, many participants were attempting to participate in both chats simultaneously, leading to hashtag distortion fields and chaotic chat neutrino interference. For that reason, we figured we’d better just absorb #TChat, which also gives us Meghan Biro and a couple of minor-league avatar draft choices.”

According to Lisa Petrilli, acknowledged as the real brains behind #LeadershipChat, “Our M&A advisors at J.P. Morgan figured that #TChat was worth at least one large platter of cannolis plus a pair of fiery red stilettos, but we figured we’d base our offer on revenue, which was a much simpler calculation. Competing as two separate chats was clearly a zero-sum game. Turns out that combining was as well!”

Response from the two chat communities was mostly positive. Lurker Mack Collier, founder of #BlogChat, figures any arrangement that dilutes the influence of Steve Woodruff has to be positive. “I can never understand half the stuff he rails on about anyway. Meghan and Lisa, I get. This can only expand the audience of people who aren’t interested in seeing metaphysical concepts reduced into 140-character soundbites.”

Meghan Biro was not available for comment due to a confidentiality clause in the agreement, but according to DMs brought to the surface from her hacked Twitter account, she was preparing to launch her next venture, tentatively called #WhatWereTheyThinking?Chat. Negotiations were well underway to feature a NY congressman as the first guest host of the new chat.

===> Um…OK, the above is a spoof. But, in fact, #LeadershipChat and #TChat ARE having our first joint chat on Tuesday night, June 14th, at 8 pm ET. Please join us as we discuss the topic together: How Magnetic Leadership Attracts the Best Talent. Please use both hashtags (#LeadershipChat #TChat) as you participate!

And, to make your chat experience even more enjoyable, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions!

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Terry Starbucker and Leadership

Tonight, Lisa Petrilli and welcome Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie to LeadershipChat as a co-host.

While both of us typically write a topical “warm-up” post for the Monday/Tuesday before each weekly chat, today I’m going to take a slightly different tack (Lisa’s excellent post is here: Three Leadership Secrets for Building a Great Team).

I’m going to tell you about Terry, the man I’ve come to know over the past few years.

Terry is one of the bloggers I stumbled across early on in my social media voyage some 4+years ago. If memory serves me correctly, we actually met for the first time (face-to-face) at Blogger Social ’08, a watershed event for many of us who were involved in marketing-blogging in the early days.

What has always struck me about Terry is that he’s for real. What you see is what you get (well, except for the name change – ask him about that story sometime!) On his blog, you see friendly, thoughtful, upbeat, approachable. When you meet at a Starbucks in Manhattan, or at an event like SOBCon, what you get is friendly, thoughtful, upbeat, approachable.

Some people go through life with a fin out of the water – always looking for how to make a killing, and perhaps deigning to speak with you if you appear to be a suitable means to an end.

That’s not Terry Starbucker.

Terry is loyal, supportive, and steady. A wise.businessman and a friend.

And that’s why you want to join us for an on-line discussion about leadership, with Terry, tonight at LeadershipChat (8 pm ET on Twitter. Hashtag: #LeadershipChat). If you want to get a nice snapshot of Terry’s top thoughts on leadership, download and browse through the quick-read free e-book on his site: Leadership From A Glass Half-Full.

Don’t miss the chance to meet Terry if you haven’t already. He’s the real deal.

(to make your chat experience even more enjoyable, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions)!

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The Accountable Leader

Self-destructing leaders are nothing new. Sadly, it’s a very common thread throughout history – powerful leaders, celebrities, and other noteworthy people who are put on pedestals regularly fall off (or even jump off) the pinnacle.

Lisa Petrilli and I decided to probe this leadership problem for Leadership Chat this week – I’d urge you to read Lisa’s excellent post outlining the tragic mix of hubris and leadership.

There is one area of preventive medicine I’d like to focus on with this post. And that is the practice of accountability.

To be accountable is, according to Dictionary.com, to be subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable. In other words: no Lone Rangers!

Power and influence can easily lead to isolation. Mix in some hubris, some above-the-hoi-polloi arrogance, and you have a potent recipe for disaster.

For years, I have known about Harold Camping, and his Family Radio ministry (Mr. Camping is the guy who was predicting the rapture for earlier this month). Over the years, he has increasingly isolated himself from the broader church; in fact, arrogating to himself the position of being a prophet,  above the backslidden church at large. One failed prophecy about the end of the world in 1994 did not keep him from compounding his error, upon which he is now doubling down again. What’s going on here?

He is (apparently) not accountable to anyone but himself. Even – especially – spiritual leaders need accountability. No checks, no balances, no wisdom from sage advisers, no people willing to get in your face and tell you when you’re adrift – disaster looms. Don’t tell me you only answer to a “Higher Authority” (aka God). If you truly live in the fear of God, you have no problem being accountable to other human beings.

And this is hardly just a church problem. Whether it’s the intoxication of corporate power, or the vanity inflated by a rabid fan base, or the presumption that comes from feeling like one is a unique conduit of truth, the end result will be the same if there is no real-world, straight-shooting accountability. People end up thinking they can rape a maid, or seduce an intern, or skim some profits, or cover up all sorts of folly when there’s no-one to answer to.

So, what is a leader to do? It’s straightforward – have the guts and humility (and concern for your own reputation and the good of your family) to pro-actively gather some solid people around who will tell you the truth and kick you around a bit when you need it. And do it BEFORE you need it – once you rise up to a certain level of power, it’s that much harder to find people who will treat you as a peer.

And if your company has a Board of Directors that doesn’t notice when a company leader is buying $3,000 umbrella stands….it’s time to start over and build in some real accountability. We don’t need any more Tycos and Enrons around here…

Hubris or humility. You going to hew the line….one way or another.

Tonight at 8 pm ET, let’s discuss leadership and hubris! You’ll find the LeadershipChat community to be warm and supportive, people who are wrestling through the same things you are – and who, in small but growing ways, are learning accountability with each other.

And, to make your chat experience even more enjoyable, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions!

(Image credit)

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Leadership at 2 am

On LeadershipChat this week, we’re discussing the things that keep a leader up at night.

My lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli, has written an excellent post that gives the corporate/executive angle: Four Priorities Keeping CEOs Up At Night. I urge you to read her thoughts as we prepare for the Tuesday night on-line discussion.

I’m a solopreneur, and generally sleep pretty well through the night (now that our kids are older!), but as someone who is seeking to lead in a different sphere than a corporate hierarchy, there are definitely things that can cause tossing and turning. Perhaps you can relate.

1. Focus – A person working on their own, or in a small business, seeking to lead him/herself, clients, and partners, must first and foremost learn how to keep their eyes on the ball. The great trap of those in a more entrepreneurial environment is often distraction rather than disruption. Interrupted sleep regularly involves trying to decide between three divergent paths, each seemingly legitimate – and without a very sharp and clear focus, the leader can ping-pong back and forth between options, unable to set a firm direction (shameless plug for one my services: that is why a Brand Therapy session, where you identify your professional DNA and direction, can be so critical).

2. Isolation – This is a major problem for leaders at every level. Without a supportive and wise group of peers and/or colleagues, leaders can lose plenty of shuteye carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, with no mechanism for gaining perspective. Fortunately, social networking allows people to find like-minded leaders and to create a web of support and wisdom that can prevent the turmoil of isolated leadership. A few choice words from a different angle can sometimes resolve a conundrum that has interrupted a week’s worth of sleep.

3. Weariness – Those leading new or small endeavors are constantly creating, constantly pushing forward, leading every moment – and this can wear down our resiliency and lead to to very restless nights. Sometimes, the relative structure of a corporate environment, where you’re pulling only some of the weight in a more defined area of responsibility, sounds quite appealing – and, indeed, for some, it may be the right option. But for those looking to break new ground, the unrelenting nature of the  yoke we have chosen to shoulder can wear us down. When everything seems to depend on you – that’s a lot of pressure! And I don’t have a good answer for this one. Still trying to find equilibrium here…(suggestions??)

So, what keeps you up at night? Tonight at 8 pm ET, let’s discuss! You’ll find the LeadershipChat community to be very warm and supportive, people who are wrestling through the same things you are, and coming together to support one another (see point 2 above).

And, to make your chat experience even more enjoyable, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions!

(Image credit)

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Touches and Tribes

The existence of social media doesn’t fundamentally change the essence of leadership – a leader is a leader with or without Twitter.

But social networks can dramatically impact the exercise of leadership. I’ll mention two ways that come to mind immediately; then, on LeadershipChat tonight (8 pm ET, #LeadershipChat on Twitter) we’ll discuss the topic as a community.

Touches

By being actively networked via social platforms, a leader can much more consistently deliver touches to employees, customers, and other stakeholders. The value of this is incalculable. Leadership is more than transaction and direction, it is relationship-building. Social networks provide a great format for reaching out and touching people on multiple levels, at any time. This pro-active accessibility will likely become, not a luxury item, but a norm in the coming years. Smart executives need to latch onto this low-cost, high-impact approach to more effective leadership.

Tribes

Traditionally in the business world, leaders were anointed through a process of working their way up through a corporate ladder – a hierarchy in which there were fewer winners at each level. While that model will continue to exist in many organizations, social networks allow for something very different – the bottom-up gathering of tribes. Leaders can now assemble like-minded groups of people who perhaps have little or no geographical or corporate connection, but who can work together toward a common cause. Tribal leadership will emerge in the coming decades as a radically new and very effective model of organization. Something as simple as LeadershipChat is an example of this approach.

These are just two quick thoughts – how do you see social networking impacting the way leadership is manifested? Feel free to share in the comments, and join us for the discussion on LeadershipChat tonight. And while you’re getting ready for that, be sure to read my co-host’s perspectives on this topic (3 Things CEOs Should Never Lose Sight of in Social MediaLisa Petrilli).

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New to social networking? Feel free to download my newly updated e-book, Build Your Own Opportunity Network

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Leadership Rails

From infancy, we all ride other peoples’ rails for a season, as we learn to navigate through life, and as our own self-awareness is developed.

But at some point, budding leaders have to decide whether they are best served – and can best serve others – by remaining on pre-established pathways, or by blazing their own trail.

Not everyone is cut out to lay down fresh rails – there is a tenacity and a thick skin required to follow a vision that may not be shared by others. But conscience, inward conviction, or out-of-the-mainstream ambition may compel a man or woman to blaze new trails.

There is no simple answer as to who should venture out, when, and how. And there are always a dozen reasons to play it safe. But eventually you may reach a point in the journey where you know that if you don’t act, you’ll always regret it.

As Yogi Berra might have said, when you reach that fork in the road – take it!

My LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, describes just such a fork in the road in her life. Feel free to join the Twitter community that is #LeadershipChat on Tuesday night at 8 pm to discuss this topic!

(Image credit)

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Inspiring Loyalty

A recent NY Times article – you’d almost think they’d known about this week’s LeadershipChat topic and planned the timing – described the Shifting Definition of Worker Loyalty. It’s a good overview of the many reasons why the old business contract is null and void – companies no longer earn long-term employee loyalty, and employees are learning not to expect Big Brother Employer to take care of them from cradle to grave.

Whether this loss of MAS (Mutually Assured Symbiosis) be interpreted as good or bad, it just is. And it brings up the question – what can a leader do to build and inspire loyalty within a company? (note the two verbs – build and inspire.  “Assume” doesn’t cut it anymore).

There’s no magic bullet, but I think people will open the wallet of loyalty when they see these three things:

  1. A mission worthy of their affections
  2. A culture worthy of their attention
  3. An example worthy of emulation

If your company is just providing good or services in order to perpetuate its own existence, that’s not going to inspire anyone who aspires to higher purposes. And as soon as something better comes along, there will be few ties of loyalty – after all, it’s just a job, not a mission.

On the other hand, many employees have refused better offers, or come back to the fold, because there was something special in the company culture – something that makes people actually want to come to work and be part of it.

And then, something very powerful – a leader who is a great example inspires loyalty because people instinctively want to follow and learn from someone who is blazing the trail ahead. There will be little loyalty to a mere functionary with a title – but far more attachment to an example who walks the talk and inspires greatness.

That’s all the high-falutin’ stuff. Now, let me turn to one very simple action – which anyone can do – that engenders loyalty. It so simple, that it’s easy to overlook.

Notice people. And let them know that you notice them.

This link came across my Twitter stream today. Look at the number of Twitter followers Trey has. Do you have any idea how much it means to me to be called out as a Twitter BFF (we’ve only met IRL once, btw)? And do you think that, just perhaps, I might feel a deepened sense of loyalty to my pal in South Carolina for noticing me publicly? (but Trey, that pink jacket…I dunno, maybe it’s a Southern gentleman thing…)

What are your thoughts on Leaders who inspire loyalty? That’s what we’ll be discussing during #LeadershipChat on Tuesday, April 26th at 8 pm ET. And, be sure to read my co-host Lisa Petrilli’s post Leadership and Loyalty: Why it Must Start Within You.

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