The Leadership Lesson They Don’t Teach In Business School But Should

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2growth 

* This column was originally published on Forbes.com

I’ve always believed leadership exists to disrupt mediocrity, but I’m afraid in recent times many leaders are losing that battle. Somewhere along the way, they threw in the towel and settled for a weak-kneed, watered-down version of leadership – they have rationalized and justified themselves into an acceptance of mediocrity.

The sad reality is that in many cases, the education, training and development leaders receive today is woefully inadequate. We are producing analysts and risk managers and labeling them leaders. We’ve taught them to be practical, analytical, and risk adverse, but have failed to equip them to lead.

 

Read Full Column on Forbes

The Emperors New Clothes

Who Will Tell the Emperor He Has No Clothes?

By Patricia Lenkov
Chair, Executive Search, N2growth

The time honored Hans Christian Anderson tale about the emperor and his new clothes, or lack thereof, bears significance for corporate boardrooms today.

To remind you of this story, an Emperor cares very little about his responsibilities and only about wearing fine clothes. Two dishonest weavers promise the Emperor new clothes made of such high quality fabric that they are invisible to anyone who is stupid or incompetent. The emperor proudly goes out wearing what he believes are these fine new clothes but are actually nothing and he is in fact naked. His subjects and attendants fear telling the emperor the truth because they worry that they’d be deemed incompetent. Finally, it takes the innocent honesty of a child to point out the folly of the emperor’s ways.

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Lessons from FDR

Lesson From FDR: Character Is Revealed

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2growth

Does crisis make a leader or does it reveal it?

That is a question that historian James Tobin explores in his newest book about Franklin Roosevelt’s battle with polio. As Tobin told Dave Davies on NPR’s Fresh Air, he answers the question with the book’s title, The Man He Became: How Roosevelt Defied Polio to Win the Presidency. Tobin says while many of those who knew Franklin best including wife Eleanor note that FDR’s struggle to recover and rehabilitate himself challenged Roosevelt to become a different person Tobin believes, like many leadership observers, that character is revealed. In other words, FDR, raised in privilege and sheltered from many of life’s hardships, faced in polio a foe that he could not defeat but could learn to live with.

 

Read Full Column on Forbes

Are You too Busy to Say Thanks?

By Brian Layer
Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Is it me or has Thanksgiving been overrun by our national pastime–holiday shopping?  Apparently, we are too busy to spend a single day reflecting on our blessings.  It should come as no surprise; gratitude went out of fashion years ago.  But more accurately, as most of us became removed from the challenge and hard work of producing our bounty, our gratitude diminished and like most things that come easily, we began to take it for granted.

This change of attitude is not just a cultural problem; it’s a leadership problem too.

As leaders, we can become removed from the team’s challenge and hard work and in turn; our gratitude can wane.  We get too busy to acknowledge the hard work being done on our behalf.  Perhaps our leadership gratitude has gone the way of our cultural gratitude—squeezed out by other priorities.

As a Soldier, I was lucky to lead in an Army that takes gratitude seriously.  As an officer, I was empowered to express gratitude on behalf of my unit and our Nation.  I could give awards for service and achievement that expressed my gratitude as well as that of the chain of command.  As a general, I had the sad, sacred duty of expressing the gratitude of a grateful Nation to the loved ones of our fallen.

I have lots of experience saying thanks officially and I have witnessed the power of formal gratitude; still, no token of appreciation resonated like an unexpected, sincere and personal expression of gratitude.  As my responsibilities increased, I too became removed from the challenges and hard work of my Soldiers.  Yet, my rank didn’t diminish my duty to understand their sacrifice or excuse me from saying thanks. I had to make getting to the right place to say thanks in a meaningful way a standing priority.  I visited people, wrote notes, called meetings, planned events and used every power at my disposal just to say thank you and you should too.

Don’t let your professional gratitude go the way of Thanksgiving—squeezed out by other priorities.  The privilege of your position will only insulate you from the challenges and hard work of your team, if you let it.  Keep your leadership priorities straight.  Make time and take time to say thank today and every day of the year.

Thoughts?

Follow me on Twitter @brianlayer

Board Diversity

Top 10 Reasons Diversity Is Good For The Boardroom

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2growth 

I do quite a bit of work on matters of board composition, selection and succession, and what I can tell you is this; board diversity is simply smart business. You’ll never hear me recommend diversity solely for the sake of checking a box, but when diversity in the boardroom offers so many benefits to the CEO (and to the entire organization) it’s nothing short of irresponsible for chief executives not to place their board composition under the microscope. In today’s column I’ll share with you the top 10 reasons why diversity is good for the boardroom.

 

Real Full Column on Forbes

Presidents and Executives Need People Willing to Disagree With Them

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2growth

It is important for a leader to include people in his inner circle whose power does not derive solely from the leader.

That is the gist of a comment that David Gergen offered as one of the reasons President Obama has stumbled managing some of the major challenges facing his administration, namely the launch of the Affordable Care Act and the intelligence-gathering activities of the National Security Agency.

Gergen, a veteran of four White House administrations, noted that the president’s inner circle of aides, while all very capable, owed their positions to him. While that ensures a degree of loyalty, it cannot make it easy for them to raise tough questions or challenge the president.

 

Read Full Column on Bloomberg

 

What the NFL can learn from a Civil War Soldier

By Brian Layer
Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

“Beware how you take away hope from another human being.”Oliver Wendell Holmes

This week, the Miami Dolphins stole headlines from their NFL competitors.  Unfortunately for the league, the Dolphins, and the rest of us, the way their players talk and not the way they play invited the scrutiny. Words are unique to the human condition and the thread that connects us to this quilt of humanity.  The right words strengthen; the wrong words fray.

The problem became public when a player left the team after a more experienced player and designated leader spoke, wrote, and broadcasted words that were both demeaning and threatening.  A handful of players and observers have reminded those who sit outside the lines that theirs is a warrior’s world where toughness matters and where words like those are just part of the language of toughness.

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VIDEO: Never act like the smartest person in the room

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2growth

Sometimes it pays to shut up! Especially when you are really smart.

As a bright and capable performer, you will have plenty of opportunities to show what you know and how you know it but one thing you can never do is – show off! People in power don’t like it and people you work with find it annoying.

Smart people who know when to speak up and when to act on their initiatives are a special breed. Don’t squander your opportunities by showing off. Let your cool demeanor speak for you.

The #1 Problem Every Leader Has But Isn't Aware Of

The #1 Problem Every Leader Has But Isn’t Aware Of

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2growth 

* This column was originally published on Forbes.com

Let’s cut right to the chase – the biggest problem all leaders face is problem solving itself. The job of every leader is to avoid, minimize or altogether eliminate problems. When the inevitable problems do arise, it’s a leader’s job to turn said problems into opportunity. The issue is this; most leaders are woefully inept when it comes to problem solving.

Pick any leadership challenge and it boils down to a problem solving issue – nothing more, nothing less. Issues surrounding talent, finance, public policy, operations, strategy, social purpose, execution, competition, litigation, etc., are simply problems to be solved.

 

Read Full Column on Forbes

Clear Counsel – How Sweet the Sound

By Brian Layer
Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

When you want to know how your leadership is working–ask.  Years ago, I learned this lesson when I received some unsolicited advice that challenged my professionalism, served as a wakeup call, and changed the arc of my career.  The counsel came from a subordinate as I was leaving an important leadership position but it would have come earlier if I had only asked.

I was very interested in my performance and development as a leader and often sought my boss’s input.  I led an outstanding organization and he consistently praised our performance and my leadership.  My formal evaluations were all exceptional but the counsel of a subordinate was more accurate, less kind and exactly what I needed to hear.  My leadership shortcomings never surfaced with my boss because our organization was good enough to overcome them but they were obvious to those who worked for me.

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