Leading With Fear

If you’re a leader, you’re going to lead with fear. I don’t mean  you’re going to use fear as your weapon of gaining compliance – plenty of faux leaders do that and the results are easy to predict. No, I mean that you are going to have to face your personal fears head-on, and lead right through them.

In fact, if you don’t lead with some measure of fear still percolating inside you, then you’re probably in need of psychological evaluation.

We want our leaders to project confidence, and when we lead, we want to feel and radiate that confidence. But does this mean fearlessness? No, it does not. Confidence is the readiness to take the next step despite not knowing (with certainty) all the implications. Fear resides exactly in that same place. Carrying responsibility for others into unknown places with no guarantees is a recipe for fear. Welcome to leadership.

Now, I get what my brilliant #LeadershipChat co-moderator, Lisa Petrilli, writes about tapping into the feminine side of things as a pathway to overcoming fears. But I quite believe that, in many cases, the masculine side is just as important, perhaps even more so.

Suck it up. Face it. Walk right over it.

Some fears aren’t going to yield to self-analysis and enlightenment. Like locked doors, they just need to be kicked in. Putting your boot into it is sometimes all the enlightenment you need – “Hey, I can do this!”

You don’t have to be weak to acknowledge your fears. In fact, that is a manifestation of strength. Weakness is choosing the false security of inactivity over the nobility of taking action despite risk.

Fear – I say, bring it on! If we’re not feeling some measure of fear, perhaps we’re not taking on much of a challenge…!

(Join us for #LeadershipChat Tuesday nights at 8 pm ET. This week, on 3/1, we’re talking about how fear impacts the ability to lead. Join the (very human and transparent) LC community and enrich the discussion with your thoughts!)

(Image credit)


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The (Mis-matched) Accidental Leader

This week at #LeadershipChat on Twitter (Tuesday nights, 8 pm ET), we’re going to talk about leaders who are put into a position of leadership – and maybe they don’t really belong there according the “normal” rules.

My co-moderator Lisa Petrilli has written a wonderful post, in observance of President’s Day, on how many of our national forefathers were thrust into a position of leadership (ready or not) and rose to the occasion, changing the world in the process.

For my part, I want to focus here on the broader theme of how individual people and specific leadership roles may not match well. There may be an accident – happy or not – where someone doesn’t really seem to fit into the shoes of a leader. Now what do you do?

Do you give that person space to grow into the role? Or do you quickly admit the mistake and find a different role for that person, and a different leader for the group?

There is no simple answer, but let’s make it even more complicated! Please take a few minutes to read this provocative blog post by Gary Hamel in the Wall Street Journal, on Inventing Management 2.0.  Here’s a quick taste:

Management 1.0 was built to encourage reliability, predictability, discipline, alignment and control. These will always be important organizational virtues, but in most industries, getting better at these things won’t yield much of an upside.  That’s why our management systems need to be re-engineered around the goals of adaptability, innovation, engagement and accountability—which brings us back to the issue of leadership.

Let’s face it – not only do we have the challenge of find the right leader for the organization, we also will increasingly have the challenge of organizational systems that need to be thoroughly changed – calling for leaders who are not functionaries, but revolutionaries.

The business world, and its structures, are changing very rapidly. We may have a lot of mis-matched managers and leaders in the coming days. How do we re-imagine leadership in the world of the future? Join us to discuss a world of leadership that may become far less predictable – but where there may be many more “accidental leaders” whose talent and nimbleness give them outsized influence, and force them to wear outsized shoes.


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What to Expect at LeadershipChat

During this week’s LeadershipChat (transcript) on Twitter, I noted one tweet fly past that indicated that there was not much “actionable” in the 1-hour discussion.

That observation was only partly true, but it made me think: people coming into a LeadershipChat discussion may not know what to expect, and it’s a good idea to level-set by explaining what we’re cultivating in this growing community discussion each week.

So, let’s start with the Nots. Here’s what not to expect on Tuesday nights at LeadershipChat:

1. Don’t expect a nicely packaged action plan. This is a weekly cocktail party and discussion on specific topics, with the kinds of side conversations, disagreements, and budding new friendships that you’d expect at any get-together. Nobody is there for a corporate strategy meeting.

2. Don’t expect rah-rah groupthink. We’re there to explore, and push on ideas, and break some new ground. Each week, you’ll typically see one or two tweets starting with the word, “Disagree.” When that stops, we’ve lost our way.

3. Don’t expect to keep up with everything. It’s a very free-flowing discussion area – you need to latch onto a few people and topics each week, and pick and choose your interactions. Otherwise, it’s just too much to digest.

OK, now – here’s what you can expect:

1. Expect a warm reception. This is a very friendly, warm, and inviting group. We (Lisa Petrilli and I, the co-moderators) have sought to cultivate an atmosphere that is like a Tuscan dining room. LeadershipChat is not just information exchange – it’s a virtual get-together of people who really like each other’s company. You’re welcome to lurk in the shadows for a week or two just to get used to it, but really – we’d rather you just dive in.

2. Expect to walk away with one or two jewels each week. While you may not get a 10-point action plan, you will be able to learn some important, 140-character-sized perspectives from some very smart people who are contributing.

3. Expect some banter. It’s not all “on-topic” – you’ll see jokes from our Italian contingent about cannolis; you’ll see certain members ripping on each other for being absent the week before; you’ll see all kinds of mutual greetings during the first 10 minutes, etc., etc. You know – like family.

4. Expect to be pushed out of your comfort zone. We’re trying to explore topics on LeadershipChat that can be a bit provocative. We’ve discussed male and female roles, the place of love in leadership, macho-style leadership, mentoring, jerks (yes – jerks), squelchers – and we’ll continue to fearlessly explore topics together that some may feel squeamish about discussing in a corporate leadership environment.

And, while we’re discussing this – all you LeadershipChat folks feel free to give your thoughts in the Comments – what do YOU expect at LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights?

So this, at least in part, is what you can look forward to when you join us (every Tuesday night, 8 pm ET on Twitter – use the hashtag #LeadershipChat). We look forward to setting a seat for you at the table!


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Revolution – Now!

The Beatles put it this way when talking about revolution:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right

Sorry, but you really don’t want to count yourself out of The Now Revolution. Jay Baer and Amber Naslund have done us a service by writing an excellent volume on how social networking is impacting business. Instead of the usual summary review of content (you can find that all over the place), I’m going to give a video recap of the highlights for me, then just extract some juicy quotes so that you’ll be enticed to buy this book. Because you most probably should!

“This book is about a business culture that has changed more in the past 3 years than in the prior 30 and what you must do as a consequence of that change.” (p. ix)

“Real-time business…is almost entirely a public spectacle. There are no insignificant transactions any longer.” (p. xiii)

“Adopting social media and real-time business means a shift in mind-set.” (p. 11)

“Hire first for a fit with your company culture and values, with an eye toward those who have a passion for their work. Skills are much easier to teach than mind-set.” (p. 27)

“There’s a point at which we’re going to stop talking about social media and online communications as a specialty…and instead start viewing it for what it really is: a series of pipes, tubes, tools, and media that can help us communicate more relevantly and urgently with customers.” (p. 53)

I only have two thumbs. If I could clone one of them, then I’d give The Now Revolution three thumbs up!


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Heart Leadership

We often think and talk about leadership in terms of characteristics, skills, behaviors, and traits (both innate and cultivated). And that is a major part of leadership (want a list of 50 traits to work on? Here you go!)

But underneath all that, and actually underlying much of what is in that list, is something else. The heart of a leader.

The best leader is seeking the greater good. The best leader puts others first. That’s not a matter of mushy Hallmark sentimentalism, or unrealistic romanticism. But it is, at core, an expression of love.

Leadership – true and enduring leadership – is an act of love.

I would argue that passivity, and drifting with the tide, is an outgrowth of nothing other than selfishness or fear. Taking a situation in hand and helping others reach higher and accomplish more is a risk. It’s hard. It’s pro-active self-denial, and it sometimes requires what has come to be called “tough love.”

It’s giving of yourself, and that is the essence of love, is it not?

I love my children. It is my responsibility to lead them, however imperfectly (I’ve got a looooong way to go on that list of 50 traits!). And that has meant, at times, some very non-sentimental moments and extended periods of agony of heart. Even when the older ones were given a timeline and a blueprint for their future departure from the nest, they always knew I was heart-committed to them, and that I wanted them to become the best that they could be.

Now, a family is not equivalent to a business, and sons are not the same as employees. But leadership is leadership. A mere functionary who exercises authority from an assigned position of leadership may hope for some level of compliance. People may “follow” for a season.

But a leader-from-the-heart gains a following that goes beyond external compliance. We want to follow, not simply because we see an admirable  example, but we feel a genuine commitment to us and respond to it. And I’m not sure any further words on my part can do this justice, because it’s “better felt than tell’t!”

We’re going to be talking about Leadership and Love this week during our weekly Tuesday night #LeadershipChat discussion on Twitter (8 pm ET). Please join us; and before you do, I recommend you also read the perspectives of my co-moderator Lisa Petrilli (Three Truths about Leading with Love) in preparation.


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Back to the Future in Meetings

I felt like Marty McFly, marooned in the ’50’s.

Getting settled in to a conference this week (ePharma Summit in NYC), I noticed immediately that something vital was missing.

Yeah. Power.

For several years, I carried my own power strip to conferences, because provision of places to plug in was a spotty proposition. But I figured, in 2010/2011, that all venues and meeting planners “got it” and it was no longer necessary to string my own cord to plug in my computer, keep my iPhone charged, and help others do the same. We all know that computers and smartphones are pretty much essential now at any conference – right?

Nope. Then I overheard a conversation that floored me. One of the conference organizers was describing the price that would be charged for the provision of outlets in the meeting room, and I just about went into cardiac arrest. Because I don’t have verification, I’m not going to mention specifics, but if what I heard was even in the ballpark of reality, then “gouging” has just gotten a whole new definition.

The Wi-Fi was awful, too, by the way.

I’m not a meeting planner, but I think that robust and easy-to-access Wi-Fi, and provision of loads of power outlets/strips, should be the ticket to entry in negotiations. Why even consider a venue that either doesn’t have the electronic goods, or wants to charge a year’s salary for something as mundane as a power outlet? Maybe if enough potential business walked away, these hotels and meeting places would finally get the message.

And while we’re at it, free Wi-Fi for every attendee room should be a given. We’re all tired of being charged 10 bucks a day for Internet access. It’s no longer an extra – it should be a given.

Back in 2005, or in 1955, I could understand this. But we’re in the future now. Plugs and wireless are no-brainers. Let’s make it so.


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Your Best Mentor?

For this week’s #LeadershipChat on Twitter (8 pm ET, Tuesday night), we’re going to talk about Mentoring.

If you are going to be an effective leader, you will serve as an adviser, a coach, a teacher to those “under” you. This assumes, of course, that you’re setting some kind of example to follow.

But let’s do something different this week. Instead of me jotting down my thoughts and feelings about the topic, let’s have YOU write the blog post. Who have been the best examples you’ve followed?

Go into the comments, and describe the best mentor/leader you’ve had. What made them inspiring to follow? How did they bring out the best in you? What lessons have you carried forward?

It would be most helpful to have YOUR perspectives about this, which will serve as a basis for our Tuesday night discussion.

Ready? Go to the comments and write up your thoughts for us! And while you’re add it, read co-moderator Lisa Petrilli’s thoughts on successful mentoring!

(by the way, does the word “mentee” somehow give you the shivers? Never have gotten acclimated to that term…!)


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Marketing Profs Digital Forum Re-cap

It was a cold week in Austin, TX. But there was plenty enough warmth among the attendees at the Marketing Profs Digital Forum, where a bunch of smart people (they let me in, too) gathered to think together about the future of digital marketing.

Or, actually, the present of digital marketing.

I won’t attempt to give a full overview, but instead, just put a spotlight on a few things that were exceptional.

Organization – the Marketing Profs staff did it right. And, they were all friendly and fun to talk to. You know what? That matters. Special kudos to Megan Leap who did a lot of the pre-event and on-site orchestration. And there was some scrambling that had to occur, with weather-related postponements and what not.

The Now RevolutionJay Baer and Amber Naslund kicked off the promotional tour for their new book, The Now Revolution. And – no surprise here – their presentation rocked. Especially their use of simple slide design as adjuncts to tell the story. Yes, slide design matters.

Content did Rule – Many of the presentations were quite meaty. Some of these conferences can get fluffy, but not here. Plus, and C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley (whom I consider a dear friend) gave a nice talk about the main thoughts in their recently-released book, Content Rules. Both are solid presenters (and, I finally got to meet C.C. for the first time).

Mobile – one of the best talks for me was Christina Kerley (CK)’s overview of why mobile is huge and getting huger. I’ve known CK for years but had not seen her present before. Fabulous. And I walked out totally convinced about the importance of developing for mobile RIGHT NOW.

Anthropology – huh? Yep, one of the highlights was a talk by an anthropologist, Michael Wesch, who gave a breathtaking 300,000 foot view of how media shapes and reflects culture. Many of us felt stunned at the end. It was also another example of using background slides to help tell a story rather than impart a content outline. Yes, storytelling matters.

Tom Martin – I’ve been hankering to meet Tom for years. We’ve talked and collaborated on-line; finally we got to hang out. Not only were our discussions fun and fruitful, but he gave a great talk on his Mardi Gras marketing initiative. Good times.

BBQ – Yes, one minor (but not unimportant!) reason for going to Austin was to have some great barbecue. And Tim Hayden helped orchestrate a very fun outing at the County Line, where the food was plentiful and delicious, and there was time to be with fine folks like Jason Falls, Frank Eliason, Aaron Strout, Tom Webster, Tamsen McMahon, Matt Ridings, and many more (yes, I know I’m forgetting names…can I get away with it by blaming age, the cold, or something else that avoids culpability??)

For me, this conference was about face time with people. I went to share vision and thoughts with folks I respect in the field, and I was not disappointed. It was also about having fun with semi-crazy folks like DJ Waldow, who along with CC Chapman and Matt Ridings helped produce an ad-hoc series of Ann Handley Day videos. Thanks to the Marketing Profs folks for putting on the event (despite all weather-related dampeners!), and I look forward to future events!


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