12 Ways To Spot Ineffective Leadership

12 Ways to Spot Ineffective Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

If I only had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked, “is there a simple test that can quickly determine an executive’s leadership ability?” The short answer is yes, but keep in mind, simple and fast aren’t always the same thing as effective. There are a plethora of diagnostic tests, profiles, evaluations, and assessments that offer insights into leadership ability, or a lack thereof. My problem with these efforts is they are overly analytical, very theoretical, and subject to bias. That said, they are fast, easy, and relatively inexpensive. The good news is, there is a better way. If you really want to determine someone’s leadership ability, give them some responsibility and see what they do with it. Leaders produce results. It’s not always pretty, especially in the case of inexperienced leaders, but good leaders will find a way to get the job done.

In a previous post entitled Looking For Leadership, I share a number of concerns about corporate America’s obsession over theoretical academic tests. There is a subtle abdication of responsibility that has occurred as rationalizations take place around DISC scores, or justifications surrounding a 360 review are used to defend an ineffective leader. My question is this: what about real world tests? If your enterprise has trouble identifying leaders, or has a shortage of leaders, you don’t have a testing problem – you have a leadership problem. One of the primary responsibilities of leadership is to create more and better leaders. I believe it was John Maxwell who said, “there is no success without a successor.”

It’s important to realize that just because someone is in a leadership position, doesn’t necessarily mean they should be. Put another way, not all leaders are created equal. The problem many organizations are suffering from is a recognition problem – they can’t seem to recognize good leaders from bad ones. In the text that follows, I’ll address how to spot ineffective leaders pointing out a few things that should be obvious, but apparently aren’t:

  1. Poor Character: A leader who lacks character or integrity will not endure the test of time. It doesn’t matter how intelligent, affable, persuasive, or savvy a person is, if they are prone to rationalizing unethical behavior based upon current or future needs they will eventually fall prey to their own undoing…
  2. Lack of Performance: Nobody is perfect, but leaders who consistently fail are not leaders, no matter how much you wish they were. While past performance is not always a certain indicator of future events, a long-term track record of success should not be taken lightly. Someone who has consistently experienced success in leadership roles has a much better chance of success than someone who has not. It’s important to remember unproven leaders come with a high risk premium.
  3. Poor Communication Skills: Show me a leader with poor communication skills and I’ll show you someone who will be short-lived in their position. Great leaders can communicate effectively across mediums, constituencies, and environments. They are active listeners, fluid thinkers, and know when to dial it up, down, or off.
  4. Self-Serving Nature: If a leader doesn’t understand the concept of “service above self” they will not engender the trust, confidence, and loyalty of those they lead. Any leader is only as good as his or her team’s desire to be led by them. An over abundance of ego, pride, and arrogance are not positive leadership traits. Long story short; if a leader receives a vote of non-confidence from their subordinates…game over.
  5. One Size Fits All Leadership Style: Great leaders are fluid and flexible in their approach. They understand the power of, and necessity for contextual leadership. “My way or the highway” leadership styles don’t play well in today’s world, will result in a fractured culture, and ultimately a non-productive organization. Only those leaders who can quickly recognize and adapt their methods to the situation at hand will be successful over the long haul.
  6. Lack of Focus and Follow-Through: Those leaders who lack the focus and attention to detail needed to apply leverage and resources in an aggressive and committed fashion will perish. Leaders who do not possess a bias toward action, or who cannot deliver on their obligations will not be successful. Leadership is about performance…Intentions must be aligned with results for leaders to be effective.
  7. Not Forward Looking: No vision equals no leadership. Leaders satisfied with the status quo, or who tend to be more concerned about survival than growth won’t do well over the long-run. The best leaders are focused on leading change and innovation to keep their organizations fresh, dynamic and growing. Bottom line – leaders who build a static business doom themselves to failure.
  8. Disconnected from the Market: Leaders not attuned to the needs of the market will fail. As the old saying goes, if you’re not taking care of your customers, someone else will be more than happy to. Successful leaders focus on customer satisfaction and loyalty. They find ways to consistently engage them and incorporate them into their innovation and planning initiatives. If you ignore, mistreat, or otherwise don’t value your customer base, your days as a leader are most certainly numbered.
  9. Not Invested: Leaders are fully committed to investing in those they lead. They support their team, build into their team, mentor and coach their team, and they truly care for their team. A leader not fully invested in their team won’t have a team – at least not an effective one.
  10. Not Accountable: Real leaders are accountable. They don’t blame others, don’t claim credit for the success of their team, but always accept responsibility for failures that occur on their watch. Most of all, leaders are accountable to their team. I’ve always said that leaders not accountable to their people will eventually be held accountable by their people.
  11. Not Focused: Leaders who are not intentional and are not focused, will fail themselves and their team. Leaders who lack discipline will model the wrong behaviors and will inevitably spread themselves too thin. Organizations are at the greatest risk when leaders lose their focus.
  12. Lacking Vision: Poor vision, tunnel vision, vision that is fickle, or a non-existent vision will cause leaders to fail. A leader’s job is to align the organization around a clear and achievable vision. This cannot occur when the blind lead the blind.

The moral of this story is leaders need to be honest, have a demonstrated track record of success, be excellent communicators, place an emphasis on serving those they lead, be fluid in approach, have laser focus, and a bias toward action. If these traits are not possessed by your current leadership team, or your up and coming leaders, you will be in for a rocky road ahead…

Which of these traits stand out to you? Do you have any other signs of ineffective leaders worthy of mention? Leave a comment and share your insights with others…

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Downplay your role & recognize the contributions of others. It’s more effective & feels better too. #Leadership

Leadership – No Talent Required

Talent not Required 2

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

While not all leaders will develop their talents and abilities to the same level, all successful leaders  more or less begin with the same foundation. Here’s the thing – the foundational elements of leadership require no skill or talent whatsoever. Clearly the difference possessed by all great leaders is that they refine, develop and build from their foundation – they don’t ignore it or take it for granted.  However the most important thing I want to communicate today is that I’d take an unrefined leader with a strong foundation over a slick leader with a weak foundation eleven times out of ten.  In today’s post I’ll share 6 leadership characteristics that require zero talent or skill.

What we’re experiencing today is too much form over substance – leaders lacking in foundation, but replete with social/political savvy. You can work with someone where the basics are in place, but lacking certain fundamentals, there really isn’t much you can do. Organizations would be well served to move past the infatuation with beauty contests and look for real strength in the areas that matter. In the list that follows I’m going to share with you 6 leadership characteristics that require absolutely no talent or ability, but that must be present in order to succeed over the long-haul as a leader.

  1. Show-up: You can’t make a difference if you don’t show-up. It requires zero talent to be present mentally and physically. In most sports I’m aware of you cannot play if you don’t suit-up and show-up. Leadership is a participation sport and never works well in absentia.
  2. Care: There is great truth in the old axiom “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Extending basic human courtesy requires no talent – just a willingness to behave in a decent manner. It’s highly probable that you don’t like rude, elitist, arrogant, dismissive, or condescending people, so don’t become one yourself.
  3. Hustle: I learned this lesson at an early age…I had a basketball coach take me aside after I finished far ahead of the pack after a long set of down-and-backs. He pointed to a slower teammate who was still running his lines and said, “he may not be as fast, but he’s giving 100% – Did you?” He went on to say, “it takes no talent to hustle and your team deserves better.” I don’t ever remember dogging-it again.
  4. Follow Through: It takes no ability to simply do what you say you’re going to do. Nothing is more important for a leader than keeping promises and commitments. A leader who fails to understand this will never create the trust bond necessary to lead effectively. It’s just not that hard to deliver on your promises, and if you have no intention of doing so, don’t make the commitment to begin with.
  5. Positive Attitude: To the one, the best leaders I’ve ever known all smile, listen, engage, have a positive outlook, and have a high energy level. This is a mindset thing, not a talent thing – it’s as simple as making the choice to be pleasant.
  6. Do the Right Thing: While it will often require courage, it takes no talent or ability to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Real leaders don’t compromise when it comes to core values. It takes no skill to tell the truth and great leaders will always forgo doing things right where such actions conflict with doing the right thing.

There is no doubt that the list above could be expanded as there are large numbers of leadership characteristics that require no talent or ability, just desire. This is where you come in – it’s your turn to share. Please add to the list by adding your contributions in the comments section below. Let’s see how many leadership characteristics we can come up with that require no talent…

Related Post: Leadership Basics

Love and Leadership

Love and Leadership 2

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

In my last post I took a bit of a contrarian look at passion as a leadership trait. Who knew people were so passionate about passion? The comments I received inspired me to republish this piece on love and leadership. While most people tend to view passion as a positive leadership trait, I have found many people view love as a negative leadership trait. Let me state right from the outset, you’ll never be a great leader without being loving and compassionate. While today’s post is a bit more kumbaya than most, please don’t check out on me because you perceive this topic too gooey and gushy to be relevant. If you take what follows to heart, it might just change your world.

I viewed a brief Twitter exchange between Becky Robinson (@BeckyRbnsn) and David Hutchens (@davidbhutchens) which piqued my curiosity. David asked Becky, “How come no one ever talks about love as a leadership competency?” I think it’s a great question. While love and leadership are certainly two words you don’t often hear in the same sentence, I can assure you that rarely does great leadership exist without love being present and practiced. In fact, if you examine failed leaders as a class, you’ll find that a lack of love, misplaced love, or misguided love were a contributing cause of said failures, if not the root cause. In the text that follows I’ll examine the softer sides of leadership – love, compassion, humility, kindness and empathy.

I’ve addressed this topic before, but perhaps not in this fashion…True leadership is dedication to something beyond self. If you’re not committed, passionate and intentional in your focus on something besides yourself, you might be in a leadership role, but you’re not a leader. Leadership is not about your avarice, ego, pride, or arrogance – it’s about caring for something bigger than you are. Leadership in the truest sense of the word is nothing if not love. Do me a favor and conduct a brief gut check and see if this resonates with you – How many truly great leaders have you encountered during your lifetime? Of those great leaders you’ve crossed paths with, how many of them were kind, caring, compassionate, humble and loving individuals? Of the legions of not so great leaders you’ve encountered over the years, how many of them were absent of these qualities? Starting to get my drift?

News Flash – the phrase compassionate leadership is not an oxymoron. While many people immediately conjure-up an image of the ever so tough, bombastic extrovert without an ounce of compassion as the picture of what constitutes a real leader, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, some of the toughest leaders I know are the most compassionate leaders. If a leader’s primary obligation is for the care and well being of those under their charge, then I would suggest that you cannot be an effective leader over the long-term without love, compassion and empathy. So why then is it that so many leaders seem to struggle with seeing a tender heart as a strength and not a weakness? Read on and find out…

People who attempt to lead out of self-serving motivations or misplaced intentions are not really leading – they are pursuing power, glory and status. This is the antithesis of true leadership. People who attempt to lead out of obligation do so out of burden not love only to eventually become weary and jaded. It is love for those you lead that allows for right thinking, proper perspective, and pure motivations. A leader whose focus is on serving others will find it difficult to wander off course. While being motivated solely by conquest may allow you to achieve a stated goal or objective, the cost will be great. History is littered with leaders of this ilk have not endured the test of time often.  As I mentioned earlier, it is always important to remember that leading and being a real leader are not one in the same.

I don’t know anyone whose been on the receiving end of authentic and appropriate love and compassion that has a distaste for it. Despite this, many in the leadership profession work very hard at maintaining that carefully crafted cool facade. They resist at all costs letting that dreaded public display of compassion slip out. It’s as if such an act would tarnish their reputation forever by making them appear weak. This is just not the case…compassion is one of the most overlooked, underrated and yet valuable of all leadership traits. Leaders who show compassion are respected, trusted, and enjoy the loyalty of those they lead.

People’s resistance to display compassion, other than to family and friends, is what makes it so complex. The natural inclination of most is to react compassionately when and/or where needed – that is until they stop to think about the ramifications of doing so. Social and societal stigmas are definitely in play when it comes to love and leadership. I believe the fear of public misperceptions have trained many people to completely avoid outward displays of compassion. It’s as if it has been socialized out of them over time.

It’s also important to recognize that while feigned compassion is the height of insincerety, true love is the best form of authenticity, and the purest form of strength. It takes far more courage to display love than disinterest, as compassion requires an investment of time, caring, empathy and understanding. Leaders need to understand that compassion humanizes them, allows them to build stronger trust bonds, and engenders confidence and loyalty from peers and subordinates alike.

Bottom line…good leaders are kind, empathetic, compassionate and loving leaders, which enables them to be fair, just and to display a steely resolve when needed. What do you think? Should leaders be more open with their feelings? Should the traits mentioned above be more formally cultivated in leadership development programs? As always, I’m interested in your comments…

There IS an “I” in Team

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

As much as some don’t want to hear this, there is an “I” in team – there is simply no getting around the fact that teams are comprised of individuals. If you crush the individual character and spirit of those who form your team, how can your team operate at its best? It cannot. The strongest teams don’t weed out or neutralize individual tendencies, they capitalize on them. The goal of a leader is not to clone him/herself, but to harness individual strengths for the greater good of the team, and for the overall benefit of the organization. This is best accomplished by leveraging individual talents; not stifling them.

The simple fact is that no team can maximize their potential by ignoring or minimizing the strengths of  individual members. While smart leaders seek to align expectations and to create unity in vision, they understand this has nothing to do with demanding conformity in thought, or perspective. In fact, savvy leaders do everything possible to inspire non-conformity in approach. It’s only by stretching the boundaries of “normal” that organizations can fuel change and innovation.

If unique perspectives, philosophical differences, and dissenting opinions are viewed as an opportunity as opposed to a set-back, growth and development are certain to follow. What I like to refer as “positional gaps” are best closed by listening to all sides, finding common ground and then letting the principle of doing the right thing guide the process. When a leader develops the skill to transform negative conflict into creative tension, they have found the secret sauce for developing high performance teams. Mature leaders see individual differences as fuel for development, not as barriers to success.

It is absolutely possible to build very productive relationships with even the most adversarial of individuals. Regardless of a person’s original intent, opinion or position, the key to closing a positional gap is simply a matter of finding common ground in order to establish rapport. Moreover, building rapport is easily achieved assuming your motivations for doing so are sincere. I have always found that rapport is quickly developed when you listen, care, and attempt to help people succeed. By way of contrast, it is difficult to build rapport if you are driven by an agenda the other party sees as being a threat to their success or security.

While building and maintaining rapport with people with whom you disagree is certainly more challenging, many of the same rules expressed in my comments above still apply. I have found that often times dealing with difficult people simply just requires more intense focus on understanding the needs, wants and desires of the other party. If opposing views are worth the time and energy to debate, then they are worth a legitimate effort to gain alignment on perspective, and resolution on position. However this will rarely happen if lines of communication do not remain open. Candid, effective communication is best maintained through a mutual respect and rapport.

In an attempting to resolve conflicts, misunderstandings, or positional and/or philosophical gaps, the first step is to identify and isolate the specific areas of difference causing the difficulty. The sad fact is that many people in leadership positions are absolutists in that they only see things in terms of rights and wrongs. Thinking in terms of “my way” is right and therefore “other ways” are wrong is the basis for polarizing any relationship, which quickly results in converting discussions into power struggles. However when a situation can be seen through the lens of difference, and a position is simply a matter of opinion not a totalitarian statement of fact, then collaboration is not only possible, it’s probable. Identifying and understanding differences allows people (regardless of title) to evolve their thinking through rational and reasoned dialog. The following perspectives if kept top of mind will help in identifying and bridging positional gaps:

  • Listening leads to understanding.
  • Respect allows differences to evolve thought and create new behaviors.
  • Accepting a person where they are, creates an bond of trust.
  • Trust, leads to a willingness to be open to:
    • new opportunities;
    • new collaborations;
    • new strategies;
    • new ideas, and;
    • new attitudes.

The key to maximizing the individual talents within a team is to focus on the shared vision rather than individual differences. By adhering to the following principles, most individual points of departure can be used as a springboard for growth and innovation rather than barrier:

  1. Be Consistent: If your desire is to minimize misunderstandings, then I would suggest you stop confusing people. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and follow-through on your commitments. Most people don’t have to agree with you 100% of the time, but they do need to trust you 100% of the time. Trust cannot exist where leaders are fickle, inconsistent, indecisive, or display a lack of character. Never be swayed by consensus that calls you to compromise your values, rather be guided by doing the right thing. Finally, know that no person is universally right or universally liked, and become at peace with that.
  2. The Importance Factor: Not every difference needs to be resolved. In fact, most differences don’t require intervention as they actually contribute to a dynamic, creative, innovative culture. Remember that it’s not important be right, and more importantly, that you don’t have to be right for the right things to be accomplished. Pick your battles and avoid conflict for the sake of conflict. However if the issue is important enough to create a conflict then it is surely important enough to resolve. If the issue, circumstance, or situation is important enough, and there is enough at stake, people will do what is necessary to open lines of communication and close positional gaps.
  3. Make Respect a Priority: Disagreement and disrespect are two different things, or at least they should be. Regardless of whether or not perspectives and opinions differ, a position of respect should be adhered to and maintained. Respect is at the core of building meaningful relationships. It is the foundation that supports high performance teams, partnerships, superior and subordinate relationships, and peer-to-peer relationships. Respecting the right to differ while being productive is a concept that all successful executives and entrepreneurs master.
  4. Define Acceptable Behavior: You know what they say about assuming…Just having a definition for what constitutes acceptable behavior is a positive step in avoiding unnecessary conflict. Creating a framework for decisioning, using a published delegation of authority statement, encouraging sound business practices in collaboration, team building, leadership development, and talent management will all help avoid conflicts.
  5. Hit Conflict Head-on: You can only resolve problems by proactively seeking to do so. While you can’t always prevent conflicts, it has been my experience that the secret to conflict resolution is in fact conflict prevention where possible. By actually seeking out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervening in a well reasoned and decisive fashion you will likely prevent certain conflicts from ever arising. If a conflict does flair up, you will likely minimize its severity by dealing with it quickly.
  6. Understanding the WIIFM Factor: Understanding the other person’s WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) position is critical. It is absolutely essential to understand other’s motivations prior to weighing in. The way to avoid conflict is to help those around you achieve their objectives. If you approach conflict from the perspective of taking the action that will help others best achieve their goals you will find few obstacles will stand in your way with regard to resolving conflict.
  7. View Conflict as Opportunity: Hidden within virtually every conflict is the potential for a tremendous teaching/learning opportunity. Where there is disagreement there is an inherent potential for growth and development. If you’re a CEO who doesn’t leverage conflict for team building and leadership development purposes you’re missing a great opportunity.
  8. Clarity of Purpose: Everyone who works for me knows that I care about them as an individual. They are important to me. They know that I’ll go to great lengths to work with them so long as one thing remains the focus point – the good of the organization. So long as the issues being worked on are leading us toward our vision, they know they’ll have my attention regardless of positional gaps or personal differences. Likewise, if things degenerate into placing pride or ego ahead of other team members or the organization as a whole, they know I’ll have no tolerance whatsoever.

The bottom line is that people matter, and but for people, organizations don’t exist. It’s important to remember that a manager exists when the company says so, but that said manager only really becomes a leader when their team says so. As a leader you have only two choices when it comes to your people –  serve them and care for them. Sometimes this means working through challenging scenarios and situations. If as a leader you’re not up to this task, then you should rethink your decision to lead.

Please share your thoughts and observations in the comments section below.

5 Reasons Tenure Kills Culture

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

If your organization confuses loyalty with tenure there is trouble on the horizon. Put simply, tenure kills productivity, and ultimately tenure kills culture. If your business rates tenure higher than performance as a measure for employee evaluation, it’s time for you to consider updating your talent management practices. So, what’s wrong with tenure you ask? In principle very little; but in practice virtually everything. Think of any organization that has mediocre talent, where management has frustrated you with consistent under-performance, or where cavalier attitudes and a sense of entitlement overshadow a focus on productivity & performance, and I’ll show you an organization that embraces tenure…

An old business saying that sums-up my feelings about tenure goes like this: “The only thing worse than an employee who quits and leaves is an employee who quits and stays” – I refer to these types of folks as office squatters.  You see, tenure is not synonymous with loyalty, but rather is more often a measure of compliance and survival. Ask yourself this question: who is more loyal; an employee who has been with the company a long time but is an under-performer, or a less tenured employee who always goes the extra mile and consistently exceeds expectations?

Let me be clear – I don’t have anything against long-term employees so long as something other than length of service in a vacuum is what accounts for them still being employed. I’m suggesting that healthy organizations value performance and contribution more than tenure. If you’re still not tracking with the difference between loyalty and tenure, please take a moment and read a previous post entitled: Leadership and Loyalty. Following are the top 5 reasons why tenure as business practice simply constitutes flawed business logic and will kill your culture:

  1. Tenure is Outdated: In case you haven’t checked your calendar lately it isn’t 1950…Outside of government and academia (this should be more than enough proof that tenure is counter-productive) most people don’t work for 30 years for the same employer.
  2. Tenure Suppresses Talent: Just because “Employee A” has performed a task longer than “Employee B” doesn’t necessarily mean that “A” is more skilled than “B.” Furthermore, just because “A” has been with the company longer than “B”, doesn’t necessarily mean that “A” possesses more talent, upside, knowledge, or adds more value than “B.” When an organization promotes based upon tenure, and not based upon recognition of talent, merit, performance, etc., the company is not leveraging its true talent base. Not recognizing, developing, and rewarding talent is the fastest way I know of to drive talent out of your organization and directly into the hands of your competition.
  3. Tenure Breeds Obsolescence and Mediocrity: The sad reality is with very few exceptions, if you have someone on your payroll who has been with the organization in a similar capacity for an unusually long period of time without increasing in role or responsibility, you likely have a mediocre employee producing mediocre work. Walk into an organization that embraces tenure and it’s akin to traveling back in time 40 years. These companies have placed themselves far behind the both the talent and technology curve because tenured managers hire employees with obsolete skill sets and together they create mediocre solutions. This is a dysfunctional cycle that can send companies into a death spiral of obsolescence.
  4. Tenure Inhibits Change and Cripples Innovation: Organizations that favor tenure also tend to be prone to majoring in the minors. The mandates for compliance along with the accompanying maze of bureaucratic processes and procedures, will often take precedence over doing the right thing. Tenured organizations also tend to embrace comfort zones and are often built upon the “DITWLY” (Did It That Way Last Year) principle. All of these traits preclude the advancement of change initiatives and cripple innovation.
  5. Tenure Kills Brands: As an organization expands and continues to promote mediocre talent up through the ranks, you’ll notice that growth will eventually slow, quality and customer service suffer, and eventually these negative attributes will be reflected in declining brand equity. Think of any negative brand connotations you have, and you’ll likely find an organization that embraces tenure. The Costco experience isn’t what it used to be, US auto manufacturers continue to struggle, the banking industry has been crippled, and government agencies (pick one…USPS, IRS, DMV, etc.) often evoke feelings of hatred at the mere mention of their name.

The bottom line is this…as an employer you need to possess an extreme bias toward performance. Reward talent, initiative, innovation, loyalty, attitude, creativity, work ethic, contribution, and leadership ability – not tenure. Meritocracy or Mediocrity – the choice is yours…

Thoughts?

Vision and Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Leadership and VisionVisioning for CEOs is a topic that I often address on this blog. I don’t do so in an attempt to torture you with redundant thought, but rather because I believe it is a message that is often taken far too lightly by chief executives. A CEO’s ability to perform effectively is so closely tied to their ability to form a clearly articulated vision, evangelize the vision and then to execute on their vision, that no real discussion on executive leadership should take place without an emphasis on vision. Put simply, I believe that leadership absent vision is a train-wreck waiting to happen. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you simply cannot decouple the two without causing an organizational implosion. In today’s post I’m going to share a few brief thoughts on visioning for CEOs, as well as providing you with the thoughts of others on the importance of vision…

Examine any list of great leaders and you’ll find that to the one, they have a clarity and purpose of vision. The good news is that CEOs without vision will take care of themselves in short order, as they simply won’t survive for long. However worse than the CEO with no vision, is a CEO with the wrong vision. These CEOs can often go undiscovered for great lengths of time before their poorly constructed vision bubbles-up to the surface, by which time it is often too late to repair the damage. Many a good enterprise has been blown to pieces by a CEO with either no vision or the wrong vision.

It’s important to understand that vision statements are design oriented.  The vision is bigger picture and future oriented – it is the vision that defines the end game. Vision statements, as implied in the construction of the phraseology itself, put forth a statement of envisioned future. This vision, if successful, must be underpinned by core ideology (values) and then expressed with clarity and conviction. A non-existent, ambiguous, or ideologically weak corporate vision is nothing short of a recipe for disaster…It would be akin to the proverbial ship without a rudder adrift without any direction or control. A well articulated corporate vision should be capable of being easily understood and distributed throughout the value chain.

As magically vibrant and illustrative as a vision can be, a vision isn’t really about what can be imagined – it’s about what can be delivered. A leader’s vision must be distributed, adopted, and deeply embedded into the daily fabric of the organizational culture. A leader who doesn’t possess clarity of vision cannot expect those they lead to have clarity in thought or deed. A shared vision based on common values is the gold standard of corporate alignment.

It should be clear by now that I believe your vision or lack thereof will shape your destiny as a CEO. But hey…you hear that from me on a fairly consistent basis. So in today’s post I thought I’d share the thoughts of others on this topic so you can see that I’m not alone in placing great emphasis on the correlation between great vision and success as a leader…

“The empires of the future are empires of the mind.”
Winston Churchill

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, but of choice. Not something to wish for, but to attain.”
William Jennings Bryan

“To grasp and hold a vision, that is the very essence of successful leadership.”
Ronald Reagan

“Dissatisfaction and discouragement are not caused by the absence of things but the absence of vision.”
Anonymous

“The future belongs to those who see the possibilities before they become obvious.”
John Scully

I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.”
– Mark Twain

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
Henry David Thoreau

“After character, the ability to create, articulate, evangelize, and execute on your vision is what will make or break you as a leader.”
Mike Myatt (couldn’t resist slipping one in)

“Create your future from your future, not your past.”
Werner Erhard

“No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities – always see them, or they’re always there.”
Norman Vincent Peale

“Where there is no vision the people perish.”
Proverbs 29:18

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it,but that it is too low and we reach it.”
Michelangelo

I hope these thoughts will inspire you to take stock of your vision, and focus on its attainment as a top priority in the execution of your duties as a leader. I would love to hear your thoughts and observations in the comments section below. Don’t be shy – jump right in…

Personal Branding Done Right

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Personal Branding Done Right

So what’s the big deal about personal branding? The mere mention of this topic sparks intense emotions and frothy debate. The legions of personal branding advocates believe it’s the great brand equalizer, and the growing constituency of disgruntled adversaries see it as little more than the latest form of snake-oil. So which is it? The answer is for you to decide…I’ll frame both sides of the argument and let you draw your own conclusions.

I have written often on the subject of personal branding, and some of my practice focuses on shaping the personal brands of executives and entrepreneurs. Needless to say, I’m a huge believer in personal branding. That said, much of my writing sides with the skeptics as I’m not a fan of the type of  “instant personal branding” preached by so many these days. If this sounds a bit schizophrenic, it probably is; but stick with me as there is a lot of meat that follows.

Want to build a strong personal brand? Let your actions speak louder than your words. Be the best at what you do, be authentic, be honest, be focused on helping others, and above all else, add value in the performace of your work. If you focus on making a certainty of execution synonymous with your name, you won’t have to promote yourself as others will do it for you. Strength of personal character and reputation are your personal brand. If you’re good enough, your personal brand will precede you, and you won’t need to shout it from the roof tops.

Let me break it down as simply as I can…There are two types of personal brands: 1.) The personal brand created by your character, work, and reputation, and; 2.) The personal brand contrived to make up for a lack of the aforementioned items. The former is a personal brand that is authentic, sustainable, and valuable, while the latter is just hype and spin that will eventually get lost in the noise and be seen for what it is…form over substance.

To be clear, I have nothing against leveraging the positioning and promotion of real talent/ability, or up-and-coming talent/ability, but I have everything against blatant self-promotion by those who pretend to be something they are not. Regrettably, the fake it until you make crowd is burgeoning at a rapid pace due to personal branding efforts based upon a lack of integrity. If you have to market yourself as a thought leader, then you are NOT. A sustainable brand is far more than a contrivance for personal glorification – it is a reflection of what you do, but more importantly, who you are and what you stand for.

So what’s the big deal you ask? Shouldn’t everyone have the chance to put their stamp on the world? Perhaps, but the problem with glory hounds is that they take opportunities away from those who deserve them, muddy the waters for undiscerning consumers, and serve to create unnecessary havoc in a market not in need of such distractions.

The reality is that most of us will probably never achieve the status of icons, nor do most of us really aspire to that end. However increasing your personal brand equity is good for adding value to your company’s brand, leveraging your earning power, and improving your job security and/or marketability. Personal branding is far more than an ego-play; it is smart business assuming it is done properly.

The bottom line is that personal brands can not only co-exist quite nicely with corporate brands, but they can add significant value to them. Don’t believe me? Regardless of how you feel about the following list of individuals you must agree that they have done a remarkable job of building a personal brand which has often times resulted in the creation of modern day empires. Think of Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Sam Walton, Ted Turner, Richard Branson, the late Steve Jobs, and a whole host of others, and you’ll quickly see just how powerful a strong personal brand can be. In fact, spend some time browsing through the Forbes 400 and you’ll find that you recognize far more names than not. View a list of the Fortune 500 CEO’s and you’ll be surprised how many of their names have been converted into strong personal brands. Look at the Inc. 500 or Entrepreneur Hot 100 lists and you’ll see a number of strong personal brands in the making.

Unlike the surface level hype put forth by many, if you want to create a strong and authentic personal brand, the following five tips will start you in the right direction:

1. Make those around you successful. While some personal brands are built at the expense of others, or on the backs of others, the most highly regarded personal brands are built on the success they have created for others. Think “selfless” as opposed to “selfish.”

2. Be Trustworthy. Whether intuitively, instinctually, intrinsically, objectively, or subjectively, most people have an initial gut feel as to whether or not an individual is trustworthy. Over time, those initial impressions will either be validated or invalidated based upon actual experience. We all know the difference both in chemistry, and in productivity when working with those whom we trust and respect, as opposed to what occurs when working with those whom we don’t.

3. Focus on Performance. If you want to stand apart from the masses, develop a reputation for delivering a certainty of execution. Immediately cease and desist from majoring in minors, learn to harness your passion, leverage your resources, be disciplined in your approach, and always focus on performance. Think of any successful leader and you’ll find they consistently get the job done. They accomplish the mission; they find a way to win; they execute. Sadly, all it really takes to stand out in today’s business world is to follow through on your commitments. It doesn’t matter where you went to school, how smart you are, what your title is, or any number of other considerations…if you want to succeed, learn to honor your commitments and execute. It is just not that hard to follow through.

4. Invest in continuing education: Okay, so you already make a great income, run your own (or someone else’s) business, and you’re busy. The sad fact is it’s far easier to reach the C-suite than to remain there. You will only stay in the corner office if you continue to refine and advance your skill sets and competencies. Never sacrifice or forgo learning because you think you don’t have time, or worse, because you think you already know it all.

5. Publicly give of your time. Get outside of yourself and lead by example. Get in the flow of relevant discussions, worthy causes, and public communities. Don’t be afraid of social networking, philanthropic endeavors, pro-bono work, and other intrinsically valuable investments of your time.

Authentic personal brand, or carefully crafted facade…the choice is yours. I’m very interested on your thoughts on this subject. Please share your observations in the comments below…