Top 10 Leadership Blogs of 2009

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Top 10 Leadership BlogsIt’s clearly a tough call to sort through the myriad of leadership blogs and distill them down to a list of the “Top 10 Leadership Blogs of 2009.” While I’m sure there are those that will disagree with my choices, I spend a great deal of time keeping up with all things leadership, and have developed a list of personal favorites over time. They may not reflect the most politically correct thinkers, but they do in my opinion offer some of the best thinking on leadership you’ll find anywhere on the Blogosphere. If you’re interested in leadership, I would highly recommend you give my list of the Top 10 Leadership Blogs of 2009 a try:

Listed in no particular order of preference:

  1. Extreme Leadership: Steve Farber consistently lays out useful and lucid thoughts on what it takes to be an extreme leader. Steve is a a great guy and you can follow him on Twitter @stevefarber
  2. Seth Godin’s Blog: The best-selling author, entrepreneur and “agent of change” gives you personal insights on the leadership landscape. I find myself only agreeing with Seth about 50% of the time, but he makes me think 100% of the time. You can follow Seth on Twitter @ThisIsSethsBlog
  3. All Things Workplace: This blog offers opinions and general information on leadership and leadership development by Steve Roesler. Steve’s insights are thoughtful and always spot-on. You can follow Steve on Twitter @steveroesler.
  4. The Management Expert: If you’re looking for a positive spin on leadership then look no further than Phil Gerbyshak. Phil’s take on leadership and management is simple, to the point and always positive. You can follow Phil on Twitter @philgerb.
  5. Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership Blog: Wally Bock’s blog is practical, insightful, and always personal. Wally is a pure straight-shooter who pulls no punches while also happening to be one of the best writers I know. You can follow Wally on Twitter @WallyBock.
  6. Marshall Goldsmith Blog: Marshall Goldsmith is a class act, a competitor of mine (one of only two or three CEO coaches that I would recommend), and a deep thinker on the topic of leadership. You can follow Marshall on Twitter @coachgoldsmith.
  7. John Maxwell on Leadership: The name says it all…in fact, I almost view John and the topic of leadership as being synonymous. You won’t find more solid thinking on the topic of leadership anywhere (can you tell I’m a big fan?). You can follow John on Twitter @johncmaxwell.
  8. ManagementIQ: BusinessWeek writers offer their insights, thoughts, and criticisms of the latest leadership/management trends.
  9. Leading Blog:  Michael McKinney authors the Leading Blog which takes a comprehensive look at all things leadership. I tend to agree with most of Michael’s positions (except when he left my book off his list) and find his business logic to be solidly grounded. You can follow Michael on Twitter @LeadershipNow.
  10. Tom Peters Blog: Tom is the classic big thinker and is prone to the frequent politically incorrect rant, which is why I like him. Regardless of whether you agree of disagree with his opinions, you cannot challenge his candor or his passion. You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_peters.

Bonus #1: There is one other blog that probably merits inclusion on the list, but since you’re already reading it, it probably goes without saying…you can follow me on Twitter @mikemyatt.

Bonus #2: For those looking to expand their horizons on the topic of leadership, I would strongly suggest looking at the leadership professionals listed on Alltop or the members of the Lead Change Group. You’ll find solid thinking from these folks, any of which I could have easily chosen to include on the above list.

Interview: Chris Brogan

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Interview - Chris BroganI recently had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Brogan. Chris is the President of New Marketing Labs, a new media marketing agency. With the market being awash of so called social media “experts,” Chris, who would never refer to himself as such, is absolutely the real deal. In addition to running a successful agency, Chris has reached celebrity status as a blogger (www.chrisbrogan.com), social media advisor, and most recently as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of “Trust Agents.” If you want to see Chris at work, just follow him on Twitter @chrisbrogan where his followers (now numbering more than 100,000) represent one of the most fiercely loyal and engaged communities on the web. However what I admire most about Chris is that with all his success he has remained one of the true nice guys in the business. On with the interview…   

Mike Myatt: The world of social media has not only become big business, but it’s also become one of the most crowded niches in today’s business world. What has been the thing that differentiates you from the legions of other social media advisors?

Chris Brogan: I don’t try to compete with other social media types. Instead, I try to work with companies on ideas that improve their business communications efforts. My background in social media is 11 years long and growing. My background in online community participation and then leadership starts in the mid-80s. So, instead of being a marketing professional who figured out social media, I’m a social media native who learned some things to help people do vibrant things with their marketing and internal communications.

Mike Myatt: What inspired you to write “Trust Agents”?

Trust AgentsChris Brogan: I’m working on building out information that others can use to empower their own efforts. Blogs are great, but the idea of a book was that people could share it with their colleagues, their bosses, their clients, whoever needs to know. It’s a chance to share the bigger ideas of what I think works underneath the movement of using social media, and to give people much more than the “which tool is cool” type stuff I’m reading mostly these days.

Mike Myatt: While I have written often on the importance of social media in developing influence and relationships, I’d love to get your perspective on the following question: How is “social media” impacting your clients?

Chris Brogan: My clients realize that these tools allow people to be human again, that we can have a face on the brand. There are plenty of opportunities for people to build relationships. For example, one of my clients, Citrix Online (who do GoToMyPC, GoToWebinar, etc) were looking to reach more people interested in the mobile and distributed workforce. We created workshifting.com, which is a group blog that engages people without being any kind of an ad for their product. In fact, nearly none of the posts have anything to do with their products directly. Instead, we write about the kinds of challenges facing people who workshift for some parts of a week. My other clients, Cisco, Microsoft, Sony Electronics USA, etc, are all enjoying the chance to connect with people in a much more personable level.

Mike Myatt: Up to this point, can you point to any single defining moment in your career?

Chris Brogan: I’m not sure I’ve had my most defining moment. Personally, hitting both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller’s list for my ideas was great, but as my clients go, or in my overall business, I haven’t really hit my biggest success just yet. My clients are happy and have all kinds of appreciative things to say, but I don’t feel like I’ve really taken things high enough or deep enough or successful enough.

Mike Myatt: How do you gauge your success on a day-to-day basis?

Chris Brogan: On a day to day basis, my sense of success comes from trying to be as responsive as possible, to the most people possible, and from working on delivering actionable ideas to people for their efforts (be those clients, or readers of my blog). Any day I can help someone move the needle forward is a good day for me. Working with big clients gives me the chance to try big ideas, and when we can see some signs of success, that’s what matters the most to me.

Mike Myatt: What is the toughest part of your day?

Chris Brogan: Great question. Not being able to respond fast enough to everything is my cross right now. I’ve over 129 unprocessed emails right now collected over the last few days. I’m traveling so much and working some very long hours, and very few of them are in front of a computer to answer email, so I’m frustrated but trying to accomplish more every day. I’m re-reading Leo Babauta’s The Power of Less to try and improve that all the more.

Mike Myatt: If you could give any advice to our readers what would it be?

Chris Brogan: Be helpful, be consistent, be everywhere. I’m doing everything I can to equip people to do new things with their business goals, but I feel this advice is timeless and yet timely. We’ve somehow become selfish, as businesses and as people, and my goal is to help empower people to think about others as much as they can, and to derive sustainable business value from doing it.

Mike Myatt: What’s next for Chris Brogan?

Chris Brogan: I’m working on editing my second book, which will be a much more typical “about social media” book, and working on the proposal for the third book (my second with Julien Smith) which will be a shift from where Trust Agents left off. We’re writing about how human business works, and what we believe will be the DNA of disruption. It should be quite different from Trust Agents, and yet, in compatibility with what we’ve written there.

Conclusion
As you can tell from the interview, Chris is focused, smart, and totally engaged with his market. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who models the definition of customer-centric like Chris does. Thanks for sharing Chris…

Guest Post – Scott McKain

Guest Post - Scott McKainBatting cleanup in this week’s all-star lineup of guest bloggers is one of the most accomplished storytellers I know; Scott McKain. Not only is Scott brilliant in his ability to entertain you with wonderfully constructed word pictures, but he does so in a truly thought provoking fashion that leaves you both inspired and informed. Scott is the author of three #1 business bestsellers, including his latest: “Collapse of Distinction; Stand Out & Move Up While Your Competition Fails” — as well as “ALL Business is Show Business” and “What Customers REALLY Want.” Scott also has the distinction of being selected for membership in the legendary Speakers Roundtable and the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, and he has appeared on platforms in all 50 states and 13 countries. I highly recommend Scott’s Blog, as well as following him on Twitter @scottmckain, or on Facebook. Scott’s post today is on the importance of leaders not taking their customers for granted…

What would YOU do if someone provided you contact with literally millions of potential customers…and did so absolutely FREE?

Well, if you’re in the newspaper business, you would complain. Which may explain why they are in the shape in which they currently find their industry.

In an op-ed piece in the December 2 edition of “The Wall Street Journal,” Google co-founder Eric Schmidt offers that his company should not be considered the problem when the print media belabors its woes. In fact, according to Schmidt, Google is the newspaper industry’s greatest source of promotion. They are providing literally 100,000 opportunities a minute for newspapers to “win loyal readers and generate revenue—for free.”

I think he’s right. The problem is not Google – the flaw is in the monopolistic, conventional thinking that is part of the fabric of most traditional media outlets. Even Rupert Murdoch has said the problem is not technology – it’s complacency.

You don’t have to look to a far-away past to remember the time that a city’s newspaper was one of its most stable and profitable enterprises. The family (before media conglomerates like today) that owned the paper – in my home area, it was the Bingham’s of Louisville or the Pulliam’s of Indianapolis – were one of the center-points of high society. Reporters were given time to research and investigate, and it went without saying that civic and charitable involvement was an integral part of the duties expected of their employees.

How quickly things change. I – like millions of others – have cancelled my subscription for delivery of the physical paper. I can read it easily and quickly on my iPhone or laptop. Yet, the other problem is perhaps even more profound. I find more interesting and compelling writing on my favorite blogs – and more instantaneous information on Twitter.

However, if the local newspaper would have more emphasis on better writing – and if the delivery of content was more immediate and user-friendly – there would be no reason for me to stray. Again, complacency…not technology…is the issue.

It’s a great lesson for all of us — in every industry. Aspects and traditions we take for granted can be decimated in a relative instant in today’s hyper-speed culture.

Leaders respect the history of their company and industry, while maximizing their organization’s current position. Visionary leaders, in addition, do not let tradition imprison their thinking about the future. They embrace organizational revolution, rather than display a knee-jerk opposition to change. They refuse to allow themselves – or their colleagues – to accept contentment as a way of corporate life.

And, they certainly wouldn’t view 100,000 prospects a minute as a bad thing.

Schmidt concludes, “I certainly don’t believe that the Internet will mean the death of news. Through innovation and technology, it can endure with newfound profitability and vitality.”

What will lead your organization into newfound profits and energy?

Leadership Interview – Brad Lomenick

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

If you want to understand the value of leadership just observe what happens in its absence – very little. The truth of the matter is, there’s never a bad time to become a better leader. So, how do you become a better leader? One way is to watch today’s interview with Brad Lomenick (@bradlomenick) and glean as much as possible from his words of wisdom. Brad gets leadership…he worked for John Maxwell for a number of years, and is currently the Executive Director of Catalyst (@CatalystLeader), which is an organization dedicated to creating better leaders. In fact, Catalyst arguably puts on the best quality leadership conferences in the world, with their last conference in Atlanta drawing more than 13,000 attendees. I hope you enjoy the interview, and please leave your comments below . I know that both Brad and I would appreciate your insights on the topic of leadership and leadership development.

Guest Post – Steve Keating

Guest Post - Steve KeatingToday’s guest post is written “for leaders only” by Steve Keating, a leader who definitely walks the talk. I have been following Steve on Twitter (@LeadToday) for quite a while now, and find him to be one of the most selfless individuals tweeting today. He offers sage advice and counsel, does not attempt to sell anybody anything, and his true intent is simply to help others become better people and better leaders. In addition to his leadership wisdom, what I’ve truly come to appreciate about Steve is his direct, no nonsense approach to leadership which you’re about to experience first hand…Welcome to leadership Steve Keating style…

Yep, that’s what it says.  For Leaders Only!  If you’re not a leader or have no interest in becoming one, you can just skip this post and go about doing whatever it is that followers do.  If you are a leader, or want to be, then read on.

First of all, notice that the title is not, for managers only.  In the sometimes menacing business environment where we all work today, the last thing any organization needs is more managers.  While managers may have the capacity to require the compliance of their people, a leader has the ability of gaining the commitment of theirs.  Today, perhaps more the ever before, a key element to success is commitment.

Leading people is not an easy job; it takes skill, dedication and a strong desire to see others succeed. The type of skills we are talking about here are skills such as the ability to motivate others, and to coach and transfer the knowledge that members of any organization need to thrive.  All leaders recognize the importance of developing their people, and most say it is the critical part of their job.  They understand that their own success is completely dependent on the success of their team.  Yet, many managers today attempt to succeed from behind a desk, assuming that they “know what’s going on” because they used to be “out there.”  Funny thing is, “out there” is not the same as it used to be.  It may not look like it, but our desks are miles wide and we cannot get a decent view of our organization from behind them.  If you’re the leader of a team, organization or business today, and you’re not investing time with your followers on a very regular basis, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve got a handle on what’s going on with them.  Here is a test for you:  how many times in the last year has a member of your team had a problem or made a mistake and your first question to him or her was, “What the hell happened?”  You’re the leader, you shouldn’t need to ask the question, you should know!  Think about it.

How about dedication?  Leaders today have the dedication to make certain that obstacles never become excuses.  Leaders don’t let little things get in their way, managers use things like paperwork and reports as excuses for not leading, for not doing the things they say are critical to their own success.  Dedicated leaders just plain think differently than mere managers, they know that theirs is an awesome responsibility; maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity, always doing the right thing, even when it is unpopular and perhaps most important, setting and sharing their vision for a successful future for the organization.  Are you a leader that leads their team through challenges or are you a manager that uses excuses to explain shortcomings?  It’s a tough question but I think it is a healthy one to ask ourselves from time to time.  What do you think?

Having a strong desire to see others succeed is a common characteristic of leaders.  A desire so strong that a leader will develop plans to ensure that success is possible.  Success just doesn’t happen; it is indeed the result of good planning and execution.  Ensuring success requires a leader to hold their team highly accountable, accountable not just to end results but to the actions required to achieve those results.

Leaders build trust with accountability, managers just hope for the best. A leader makes decisions. A leader inspires people. A leader has a vision. A leader simplifies. A leader makes things happen.  A leader raises issues, debates them and resolves them. They aren’t afraid to go against today’s current because they know what they want to accomplish tomorrow.  Leaders don’t get stuck in the past, leaders are open to change! Leaders stimulate and relish change. Leaders aren’t frightened, paralyzed or threatened by it.  Leaders see change as opportunity.  Leaders inspire and energize others to commit to success. They capture minds. They instill a sense of ownership. They lead by example. 

Here are a few more questions for you to ponder: Are you a leader?  Are you up to the challenge?  Are you willing to do what it takes to really lead instead of just manage?  If that means making some changes, will you do it?  The choice is of course yours to make but before you do, ask yourself one last question, would you rather be managed or lead?  I thought so! 

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Thanks for the great contribution Steve…

Guest Post – Wally Bock

Guest Post - Wally BockNo, I didn’t just get better looking…I have a torrid travel schedule over the next few weeks and have enlisted a few friends to pinch hit with guest posts in my absence. First up is Wally Bock, the gentleman pictured to the left, who while being my senior looks 1o years younger. I really hate that, but I digress… For those of you not familiar with Wally, you’re in for a real treat. Wally is a seasoned pro well known for his keen insights on leadership and management. The hidden bonus is that Wally is also one of the best writers I know. Wally is the author of several books and The Working Supervisor’s Support Kit. He also shares his advice and information for leaders at all levels at the Three Star Leadership Blog, and you can follow Wally on Twitter @wallybock. Today’s post from Wally is on the topic of using astute questions to become a more effective leader. Enjoy…

I’m a recovering “I’ve-got-all-the-answers” boss. When I started out, I thought that was my job. The people who worked for me would bring me questions. I, in my greater management wisdom, would answer them. It took far too long for me to discover that having all the answers is an enabling behavior. It allows and encourages your team members to give up thinking for themselves and sharing ideas. And it creates a culture of dependence that increases your workload and decreases your team’s productivity.

I should have known better. My father was a pastor and we often hosted both dinner parties and receptions for members of the church. Before each one, my mother prepped my sister and me with the questions we might ask each guest. The questions would encourage the guest to talk. There were two outcomes. First, I learned a ton about a lot of things. Second, my sister and I both gained a reputation in the church as “excellent conversationalists.”

Asking more questions can help you do a better job as a boss. Not any question will serve, though. Avoid what I call “Mrs. McKinley” questions. Mrs. McKinley was my third grade teacher. Whenever Mrs. McKinley asked a question you could be sure of two things. You could be sure that there was an answer. You could be sure that Mrs. McKinley already had it. Asking Mrs. McKinley questions is worse than just having the answers. Your team members will catch on quickly that you are only pretending to want their input.

Ask questions that encourage participation and ideas. Try questions like: “What do you think?” and “How do you think we should handle that?” Ask open-ended questions that encourage conversation. That’s how you develop relationships with your team members. Follow my mom’s advice. Ask questions about things your team member is interested in.

Ask questions that help you analyze a situation thoroughly. American managers tend to want to skip the analysis phase and jump right to action. Resist the temptation. Ask questions that root out unspoken assumptions and identify all the important issues. Try a structured set, like the journalists’ “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?” and “How?” Or ask questions that require a narrative to answer. Instead of “What’s the problem?” ask, “What’s the story of this situation?”

Ask sets of standard questions that make sure you cover all the key elements in your planning. I like a set originally published as Innovation Styles by Dr. William Miller. His research identified four questions that people asked about change and innovation. He discovered that the people/projects that were more successful tended to ask more of the four questions.

  1. What’s the goal or destination?
  2. How will we get there?
  3. Who is and needs to be involved?
  4. What would be fun to try?

In today’s knowledge economy, being an “I’ve-got-all-the-answers” boss is simply not going to work. Instead use questions to get every brain in the game and to analyze situations quickly and accurately.

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Thanks to Wally for today’s post…