Rumsfeld’s Rules: Seriously?

Rumsfeld Rules

By John Baldoni, Chair, Leadership Development, N2growth

There is little in Donald Rumsfeld newest book, Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War and Life, that anyone in leadership would dispute.

The book is an outgrowth of management and leadership aphorisms that Rumsfeld wrote and put on 3×5 notecards. Now gathered in book form, Rumsfeld’s Rules explores how to serve an organization and how to lead it. There is sound wisdom in these pages.

Google vs Apple

Leadership Lesson: The Difference Between Google and Apple

Google vs Apple

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Google and Apple are both highly esteemed brands. Both companies share many common traits which have contributed to their success, but there is one very big difference between the two  – Google plays offense while Apple has recently settled for playing defense. Apple is struggling to maintain its position in the market, while Google is expanding its position.

Predicting the Future

How To Predict The Future

Predicting the Future

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Life is just plain easier when you can see what’s ahead of you. Some leaders clearly have poor vision – their most polished skill seems to be running into brick walls. Other leaders simply possess adequate vision – they avoid the obvious speed bumps, but fail to stand out from the crowd. Then there are those leaders who possess legendary vision – the rare few who can see around corners. What you may not realize is that everyone can learn to see around corners, and it’s not as hard as you think.

Where J.C. Penney And Ron Johnson Went Wrong

Ron Johnson_2

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

It’s not hard to lead talented people with an aligned vision who fall under the umbrella of an iconic brand that has a cult-like consumer following. This describes Ron Johnson’s role as head of Apple’s retail operation prior to assuming the CEO role at J.C. Penney. Johnson was fired today by JCP as his efforts to rebrand and turnaround the struggling retailer failed to get traction. In June of 2012 I predicted Johnson’s failure as I warned of cookie cutter leadership practices in a Forbes column entitled Culture: Don’t Copy – Create.

While the aforementioned Forbes column offers an insight into why the turnaround failed under Johnson’s leadership, it points to a much bigger issue – another example of a board of directors tapping the wrong CEO for the job. Penney’s opted for star power, when what they should have done was hire a CEO with proven turnaround experience.  Penney’s didn’t need cool – they needed someone who understood the JCP culture, the JCP consumer, and the JCP business, all of which varied radically from Johnson’s Apple experience.

Penney’s board opted for a silver bullet that didn’t exist. Rather than do the hard work and heavy lifting necessary to turnaround a brand that had been mismanaged for years, they wanted a quick fix – they bought smoke and mirrors rather than sound business practice. You can’t lead with cool – cool must be earned. The label of cool comes as a result of great business decisions and outstanding leadership.

While JCP was broken long before Johnson took the helm, the retailer’s performance clearly declined under his leadership. The thing is, it didn’t have to happen, and oddly enough, I blame Penney’s board and their search firm just as much as Johnson. There were a dozen candidates who would have been a better selection, but they just had a demonstrable track of turning around businesses – they weren’t considered cool. Here’s the thing – had they made the right choice, for the right reasons, everyone would be looking cool right now.  Succession matters – especially CEO successions.

Let me give credit where credit is due – Johnson didn’t do everything wrong, in fact, he made some long overdue changes. That said, he misfired on the big ones of culture, business model and understanding the consumer. Most importantly, he failed to produce results. A lesson for all would-be turnaround CEOs.

Thoughts?

6 Ways to Conquer Pressure

6 Ways To Conquer Leadership Pressure

6 Ways to Conquer Pressure

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

How a leader deals with pressure will tell you much about who they are as a person. Their reaction to pressure will reveal the strength of their character and conviction, what and whom they value, and whether or not they can be trusted. The reality is most people buckle under pressure. Only a few handle pressure well, and even fewer possess the qualities to be able to thrive on pressure.

Leadership and the Impossible

It’s Not Impossible – It Just Hasn’t Been Done Yet

Leaders - Nothing is Impossible

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

How many times in your career have you witnessed someone say, “that’s impossible – it simply can’t be done.” Perhaps you’ve even been guilty of uttering such a phrase yourself. Here’s the thing – leaders don’t accept impossibility as a valid thesis. If you think I’ve lost my mind, or that my optimistic nature has crossed over into a state of irrational exuberance or delusion, I’d encourage you to read on as I challenge the logic of impossibility.

The fact something has yet to be accomplished is rarely evidence of impossibility, rather it usually means whatever “it” is just hasn’t happened yet. Put simply, a lack of a particular outcome signals a lack of accomplishment, not impossibility. History has proven time and again that incurable diseases become curable, so-called laws of science are revealed to have been little more than flawed theory, and physical limitations once believed insurmountable are eventually exceeded.

When leaders view everything through a lens of what is they often get a false positive on impossibility. However when they change to a filter of what if the barriers to possibility are often removed. Conventional wisdom will tell you attainment and achievement lead to great outcomes. However true wisdom reveals discovery leads to better outcomes. Great leaders don’t play to an end, they think beyond outcomes – do you?

What if Michelangelo, Einstein, Ford, or the Wright Brothers had settled for impossibility over possibility? What if Gates, Jobs and Bezos focused on what was instead of the possibilities of what could be? What if our next generation of researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and academics fail to challenge conventional thinking? What if our world leaders continue to view the status quo as acceptable?  As a society we cannot afford to embrace theory as fact, fiction as truth, or good enough as good enough. The burden and privilege of leadership simply demands more.

When you think about what keeps good leaders up at night, it’s rarely an issue of can things be done, but more likely an issue of should they be done? Given enough time and resources, virtually anything can be accomplished. If you say you don’t have the resources, I will surmise you’re not very resourceful. If you state you don’t have the time, I will conclude you’re not very focused. If you imply you have too many things on your plate, I have no choice but to believe you’re not very disciplined.

Where the absence of an outcome or a discovery exists so does a lack of creativity, critical thought, focused energy, effort and resources, and ultimately a lack of leadership.  My thesis is a simple one: “The plausibility of impossibility only becomes a probability in the absence of leadership.” Leadership is the difference between what could have been, and what will be.

Leaders must refuse to accept the status quo. Consider this – if nobody ever reinvented the wheel, our tires would still be made out of stone. Whenever I see leaders focus on maintenance over innovation, I see people who have unnecessarily drawn the line of impossibility in the sand. As I’ve said before, a leader’s job is to disrupt mediocrity – not embrace it, to challenge the norm – not embolden it, to weed out apathy – not reward it, and to dismantle bureaucracies – not build them. Nothing is impossible until you embrace it as such.

Thoughts?

Dysfunctional Leadership

Why Your Organization Suffers From Leadership Dysfunction

Dysfunctional Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Have you ever wondered why organizations tolerate dysfunctional leaders? The answer is dysfunction is so prevalent it’s often not even recognized as problematic. Many corporations just desire leaders to go along and get along more than they desire them to lead. It saddens me to articulate this next thought – corporate leadership is rapidly becoming an oxymoron.

Flattery and Manipulation

Flattery and Manipulation

Flattery and Manipulation

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

All leaders have blind spots, and blind spots simply pose potential areas of vulnerability. However not all blind spots are created equal. Few things create areas of risk for leaders like their own sense of pride and ego. Here’s the thing –  a leader’s desire to have their ego stroked makes them vulnerable to a very seductive form of manipulation – flattery.

The most common form of manipulation comes packaged in the form of flattery – it’s also the most dangerous. The veil of most “hidden” agendas are also typically cloaked in flattery. The insidious nature of flattery is that it becomes most powerful when it is served to those who thirst for it. Leaders who place their need for adoration and acclaim above serving the needs of others are high value targets for those who would abuse the misplaced trust given to them. If you take one thing away from this post it should be this – the power that comes with a leader’s ability to positively influence others is only trumped by the power given away as they are adversely influenced by others. In the text that follows I’ll share my thoughts on what has been the silent assassin of many a leader – flattery.

The problem with the old saying that “flattery will get you everywhere” is that those with less than pure intentions not only believe it, they act on it. The lazy, the power hungry, the greedy, the gravy-trainers, the psychopaths and sociopaths all understand that flattery is not harmless. Quite to the contrary, these soothsayers understand that flattery has the power to influence, corrupt, undermine and deceive – they wield flattery as a lethal weapon against the undiscerning. Manipulation in the form of flattery is little more than a covert form of aggression.

Before I go any further it is important to understand that praise and flattery, while often used interchangeably, are not synonymous. “Praise” is most commonly defined as: the expression of favorable judgment or sincere appreciation. “Flattery” is most commonly defined as: excessive and insincere praise. The naïve, the needy, the impressionable or the ego-centric view flattery as genuine praise. Discerning people understand flattery to be disingenuous, false praise motivated by an agenda.

Here’s the thing – In times past it was a bit easier to discern authentic praise from false praise because the methods by which relationships were constructed was different. We used to build our relationships slowly and carefully based upon personal history and experience. Trust was earned over time through personal observations of a person’s character, actions and decisions. Ah, the good ole days…

In today’s digital world speed has influenced every aspect of our lives – perhaps most notably how we build our relationships and who we grant access to. If you examine the speed at which people build their friends, fans, followers, and connections on social networks, and how they market themselves and their companies using social media, you’ll find many seem to be in a race to include as many people into their spheres of influence as possible. The only barrier to entry for inclusion in most people’s networks today seems to be that they are polite. Let me be clear – I have nothing against polite behavior so long as it’s not accompanied by a hidden agenda…

How often have you received adulation from the overly effusive in the form of an email, blog comment, tweet or Facebook message from someone you hardly know, and how does that make you feel? Do you trust them? Do you trust their motives? It’s as if the currency of social networking is rapidly becoming flattery – it should be trust. I’m not interested in flattery, but sincerity. It was Socrates who said, “Think not those faithful who praise thy words & actions but those who kindly reprove thy faults.” What leaders need to become cognizant of is that flattery comes with the territory. The more influence you have, the more you’ll be prone to attract flattery. The question is, can you discern fact from fiction and can you handle it?

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther: “The ears of our generation have been made so delicate by the senseless multitude of flatterers that, as soon as we perceive anything of ours in not approved of, we cry out that we are being bitterly assailed; and when we can repel the truth by no other pretence, we escape by attributing bitterness, impatience, intemperance, to our adversaries.” Things really haven’t changed too much have they?

Now it’s your turn to shower me with praise, flatter my ego, rebuke my thinking or challenge my logic – leave your comments below…

The Facts

The Facts Ma’am – Just The Facts

The Facts

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Clarity Matters. While clarity and brevity may have become a lost art, understanding the importance of clear, lucid, and straight-forward communication is nonetheless critical to your success as a leader. In today’s column I’ll reveal (clearly and briefly) the tricks of those who practice what I call “the black art of confusion” propagated by the ruse of ambiguity.

Twitter

The only guarantees accompanying a position of #leadership are hard work & criticism – everything else is gravy.

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