Leaders Who Think More – Accomplish More

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2Growth

* This post was originally published on LinkedIn

I’ve always been amazed at the number of tremendously gifted leaders who underutilize the one asset most responsible for their success – their brain. It’s not that leaders don’t think; it’s that they don’t think enough. And when they do find time to think, many leaders often think about the wrong things, in the wrong ways, at the wrong times. My message is simple, but not necessarily easy; to do more – think more.

 

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When in Doubt, Rehearse!

By Brian Layer
Chief Executive Officer, N2Growth

Lately I’ve seen several leaders trip over the unexpected outcome of a grand plan. They failed to anticipate the mistakes and mishaps that happen in all organizations.  When I see an outcome surprise a leader, I’m reminded of a lesson I learned years ago from my Dad.

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Why Leadership Development Fails

The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails

Why Leadership Development Fails

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Over the years, I’ve observed just about every type of leadership development program on the planet. And the sad thing is, most of them don’t even come close to accomplishing what they were designed to do – build better leaders. In today’s column I’ll share the #1 reason leadership development programs fail, and give you 20 things to focus on to ensure yours doesn’t become another casualty.

Leadership About Leading_2

Leadership Is About Leading

Leadership About Leading_2

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Leadership is about leading. Leadership is a 24-7-365 endeavor. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the best leaders view what they do as a calling and not just a job. If you’re a leader, what you do in public or private, in silence or in word, and in thought or in deed will be observed, evaluated and critiqued – count on it. There are simply no free passes for leaders. Don’t believe me? Just look around – the news is littered each day with examples of people in leadership positions who ignore or forget what I’ve just espoused. In today’s post I’ll examine the fallacy of leading by not leading.

There has been an interesting amount of chatter of late around the concept of “when to lead.” What puzzles me is this statement’s inference there must be a good time not to lead. I couldn’t disagree more – abdication is not a leadership quality, characteristic or trait. Leaders who view their role as a part-time activity will be replaced by those who realize the frivolity of such a belief. When you’re in a leadership role, everything you do is on the clock. Whether you realize it or not, everything you do as a leader is leading – the question is whether or not your action or inaction constitutes good or bad leadership.

Let me take a moment and dismiss the sophomoric leadership theorists who believe that sometimes a leader must not lead by stepping-back, stepping-aside or stepping-away and acquiescing leadership to others. This doesn’t represent an example of not leading, rather it is a great example of real leadership. Real leaders know that choosing to surrender the floor, to remain silent, to delegate, or to utilize any number of other subtle acts of leadership demonstrate astute examples of situational and contextual leadership.

Furthermore, real leaders don’t stop leading when they leave the workplace – they are the same person at work, in the home, or in social settings. They also understand effective leadership doesn’t always require a physical presence. They recognize good leadership is transferable, distributable and scalable, and therefore, should continue in their absence as well. Leadership that doesn’t exist in the absence of a leader really isn’t leadership at all.

Leadership isn’t about volume – it’s about vision. Leadership has little to do with personal glory, but everything to do with influencing the right outcomes. Smart leaders understand leadership influence is multi-directional and can come from many angles. While leadership is most easily recognized when appearing from the front, it is often times more effective being exerted from behind through service, or in collaborative engagement standing along side those you lead. Regardless of approach, great leaders understand leadership failure comes most often when leaders fail to lead.

Everything you do as a leader sets an example or sends a message – good or bad. Leaders are measured by how they conduct themselves online and offline, in business and social settings, and by how they value family and friends. Whether you accept a leadership position, or are thrust into a leadership role by circumstance, once you make the choice to be a leader you must ALWAYS lead. Dismiss or forget this advice at great cost and peril – remember it and you’ll be long admired for your service as a leader.

Thoughts?

Why Your Leadership Is Overrated

Your Leadership is Overrated

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth 

How are your leadership skills? Likely not as good as you think. There’s no shortage of independent empirical data generated over the years supporting the fact most people tend to overrate their leadership ability. The best leaders the world has ever known had room for improvement – so do you. I’ve always said leaders need to get over themselves and get on to the practice of leadership. In today’s post, I’ll offer 8 things every leader should evaluate with regard to their capabilities.

People arrive at a position of leadership in many different ways – some individuals openly and aggressively seek out positions of leadership, while leadership is thrust upon others. Whether leaders are elected, appointed, anointed, or self-proclaimed, and regardless of whether it’s by design or default, once in a position of leadership they all carry the burden and responsibilities associated with being a leader. The question is, do most leaders live up to their responsibilities?

Leader Beware – ignorant bliss, no matter how enjoyable, is still ignorant. If you’re in a position of leadership and don’t feel you have any blind spots, you’re either very naïve or very arrogant. All leaders have blind spots – the question is what are they doing about them? The reality is most leaders invest so much time assessing the cultural and functional dynamics of their organizations they often forget the importance of critically assessing themselves – big mistake.

It has consistently been my experience, leaders who are not growing are simply incapable of leading growing organizations. Moreover, leaders who fail to continue developing will always be replaced by those who do. A leader who fails to understand the value of self-awareness fails to understand their own true potential as a leader.

It’s at the C-suite level an executive must be on top of his/her game as they have the broadest sphere of influence, the largest ability to impact a business, and they also now have the most at risk. It is at this place the leader should make the heaviest investment in refining their leadership ability, because increased performance will pay the biggest dividends. Let me be as clear as I can – the more responsibility a leader has, the bigger their obligation to be on the forward edge of learning, growth and development.

Think about this – YOU are the single biggest threat to your role as a leader. This means YOU are also the single biggest risk to those whom you lead, your employees, your family, and to your friends. If you are in a position of leadership, you will lead – you will either lead people toward the right things or lead them astray, but you will lead.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates had a few guiding principles that today’s leaders would do well to adopt: Socrates said, “Know Thyself” and “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Those leaders who actively pursue gaining a better understanding of themselves will not only reduce their number of blind spots, but they’ll also find developing a sense of awareness is the key to increasing emotional intelligence. The better you know yourself the more effective you’ll be, and the better you’ll relate to others.

Following are 8 things I suggest you reflect upon should you desire to continue to develop as a leader:

  1. Never Stop Learning: I’ve never understood leaders who make heavy investments in personal and professional development early in their careers, who then go on to make only minimal investments in learning once they have reached the C-suite. Learning and development are lifelong endeavors. The learning journey doesn’t come to an end just because you reach a certain station in life – or at least it shouldn’t.
  2. Context Matters: Just as life is not static, neither is the environment you work in. Leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. The best leaders apply their craft contextually based upon the needs of those whom they serve. If you don’t know how to nuance your leadership skills you will simply miss opportunities others won’t.
  3. Be Kind: People go out of their way to help those whom they like. Likewise most people won’t lift a finger to help those they don’t care for. Smart leaders are purposed to build into those they lead. They understand leadership success is found by ensuring those they lead are better off for being led by them. Self-serving, arrogant, or belittling behavior may feed your ego, but it doesn’t serve your best interests as a leader.
  4. Surrender: A leader simply operates at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much more fruitful than their attempt to control. Here’s the thing – the purpose of leadership is not to shine the spotlight on yourself, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. Control is about power – not leadership. Surrender allows a leader to get out of their own way and focus on adding value to those they serve. Forget span of control and think span of influence.
  5. Begin the Process of Unlearning: Just as important as learning is shedding the emotional and intellectual baggage trapping you in the past. Human nature causes most of us to hold onto wrong, unhealthy, or outdated ideas, concepts, thoughts, feelings or practices. The fastest way to become a better leader is to challenge your own logic. If you’re really serious about finding the flaws in your thinking, ask others to help you identify gaps or faults, and then listen very carefully to what they share with you.
  6. Likeability Matters: While becoming a great leader shouldn’t be reduced to a popularity contest, the fact is most great leaders are both well liked and respected. They have the full faith and trust of their stakeholders, and possess strong positive relationships across constituencies. What do you reflect, and what do people see in you? If you are not well liked and respected then you will have consistent, self-imposed obstacles placed in your path that inhibit your ability to be an effective leader. Ask yourself this question – If an election for CEO were held today, would your stakeholders re-elect you in a landslide victory? If not, why not?
  7. Attract Don’t Repel: If people see you coming and quickly run the other way, you have a leadership problem. If people shy away from you versus clamor for your attention, you need to work on your leadership.The simple truth is people strongly desire to work with and for great leaders. Great CEOs are talent magnets…people want to be led by those who have much to offer. If you struggle with recruiting, team building, and leadership development your leadership skills are in need of improvement.
  8. Results: Great leaders produce great outcomes. If you have vision, strategy, talent, culture, or performance problems you have a leadership problem. Remember, businesses don’t fail – leaders do.

Becoming a better leader isn’t difficult, but it does take effort. It requires you to place humility above hubris, and to place a higher value on truth than you do on your ability to rationalize and justify your thinking. It means placing more emphasis on the right outcome than being right. I’d encourage you to view yourself as a lifelong student of leadership more than a master of leadership – it will serve you and those you lead well.

Thoughts?

Extreme Makeover Leadership Edition

Extreme Makeover – Leadership Edition

Extreme Makeover Leadership Edition

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

The fastest transition from inept to adept occurs when leaders turn the topic of change on themselves. When was the last time you changed something about you? Not someone or something else, but your thinking, your philosophy, your vision, your approach, your attitude, or your development. Most leaders are quite skilled at embracing change – except when the focus of the change initiative happens to be on them.

Turn Innovation Inward.
Innovation continues to be a hot topic, and rightly so. Few things can change the course of a project, career, company, category, or industry like successful efforts in innovation. That said, there is one aspect of business often-overlooked by change agents when it comes to innovation, and it also happens to be the area that offers the greatest potential returns – leadership. If we’re consistently talking about the importance of leading change, it should be just as important to recognize the importance of changing how we approach the practice of leadership. The truth of the matter is if leaders spent half as much time applying the rigor and discipline of change to themselves as they do talking about the practice to others, I wouldn’t be authoring this post.

The Practice of Leadership is in need of a Makeover – an Extreme One.
“Leadership” has been inappropriately hi-jacked by the politically correct who mock it, the avant-garde who belittle it, the naive who discount it, and the public who seems to be growing tired of hearing about it. There was a time when the dismissive attitude people displayed toward leadership befuddled me. I was left wondering how we could have arrived at such a place? How could something so valuable be trivialized by so many? Then it dawned on me – people are tired of leaders who talk about change, but fail to embrace the concept they too must change.

Are We Better Off Today?
Think about this for a moment – with all our experience and all the research, with all the resources and all the focus on leadership, do you find it perplexing, if not altogether disturbing, that our world has never been more lacking for true leaders? Casual observation might lead you to conclude leadership has devolved rather than evolved. If you pay close attention to the media and world events, it would appear those serving themselves greatly outnumber those who place service above self. Here’s the thing - we’ll never all agree on what leadership is, or is not, but I think most reasonable people will concur it’s time for a change.

Society has essentially commoditized leadership resulting in a leadership bubble of sorts. Because leadership has become the latest version of an entitlement program, too many unqualified leaders have been allowed to enter the ranks. When leadership is perceived as little more than a title granting access to a platform for personal gain, rather than a privilege resulting in an opportunity to serve, we’ll find it difficult to convince leaders of the need for change. We’ll also continue to find ourselves in a crisis of leadership. We must either convince poor leaders to change their approach or we must change leaders.

It’s The People – Always.
At its essence, leadership is about people. At its core, leadership is about improving the status quo, inspiring positive change, and challenging conventional thinking. As long as positional and philosophical arguments are more important than forward progress, as long as being right is esteemed above being vulnerable and open to new thought, as long as ego is elevated above empathy and compassion, as long as rhetoric holds more value than performance, and as long as we tolerate these things as acceptable behavior, we will all suffer at the hands of poor leadership resistant to change.

Don’t Wish for Change – Demand It.
So, how do we get leaders to change – we demand it. It’s less about structure and more about vision and philosophy. Nothing inspires change and innovation like great leadership, and likewise, there is no more costly legacy system to maintain than poor leadership. It is tolerating poor leadership as the norm, and not the exception, which allows the status quo to prosper, and the inept to thrive.

Organizations should strive for and demand that a culture of leadership replace rigid frameworks. We must transition from highly structured organizations to loose communities of collaborative networks. Complex decisions should no longer be reserved for someone sitting atop a hierarchical structure, but must be driven to the absolute edges of the organization. Think open-source not proprietary, adaptive not static, actionable not theoretical, and progressive not regressive. The best way to create a culture of leadership is to value and reward authentic and effective leadership open to change. Create a culture based upon an ethos that empowers, attracts, differentiates, and sustains. The only culture that flourishes over the long haul is a culture of leadership. A culture of leadership can only exist where the willingness to change is valued.

Thoughts?

Leadership is About Breaking Things

Leadership Is About Breaking Things

Leadership is About Breaking Things

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

There’s often a very subtle difference between those who lead and those who lead well – those who lead well are very forward focused. If you’re more interested in protecting what is than you are finding the answer to what if you might be in a leadership role, but your likely not leading well. Order isn’t all it’s cracked-up to be. In fact, I’d go so far as to say routine is the great enemy of leaders. Conformity to the norm does little more than pour the foundation of obsolescence by creating an environment that shuns change rather than embraces it. Disruption is never found by maintaining the status quo, but it’s most commonly revealed in the chaos that occurs by shattering the status quo. Smart leaders don’t think “best” practices – they focus their attention on discovering “next” practices. The simple fact of the matter is too many leaders are concerned with fixing things, when what they should be doing is breaking things.

The principles outlined in the opening paragraph apply to every facet of business, but nowhere do they create more impact than when applied to leadership itself. You see, leadership development and succession are only positive practices if they’re applied to those worthy of the investment. Do you ever wonder how businesses can fall from the pinnacle of success to the depths of stagnation in only a few short years? One of the main contributors to corporate stagnation and decline is keeping the wrong leaders in place for the wrong reasons. My premise is a simple one – because the marketplace is ever changing, corporate leadership must adapt and change with the times in order to survive. Leaders who are not growing simply don’t have the capability to lead a growing organization.

The point I ask you to ponder is this: Leadership teams often espouse the need for change and innovation, but rarely apply this thinking to themselves – why? Ego, pride, arrogance, fear, or just being out of touch with reality can cause major blind spots. Leadership is not a right of entitlement, but rather a privilege that must be earned. Leaders who view themselves as a protected class are leaders not living-up to their obligations and responsibilities. Leadership teams on autopilot, while they may be adept at maintaining course, will rarely soar to new heights. If you take one thing away from today’s message it should be this: the most costly legacy system a company can maintain is poor leadership.

A lack of fluidity, development or contextual savvy can cripple even category dominant brands. Case in point – I recall reading an interview with Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE in which he touted the fact that his top 175 executives have been with the company an average of 21 years. While Mr. Immelt may actually believe this is a good thing, I would submit it is far from a foregone conclusion. Creating a fraternity does not constitute great leadership. It is simply not possible that all 175 of these executives have been the best people for their respective positions for the last two decades. A cursory examination of GE’s stock performance over the last decade would tend to support my logic.

Need to reinvigorate a stale enterprise? Try changing the corporate landscape by shifting existing roles and responsibilities, or by bringing in fresh talent from the outside. If you want to drive innovation, lead change, and create growth, stir the pot – go break something. It has been my consistent experience that when longevity of leadership is brandished as a badge of honor, it is usually just the opposite. The length of someone’s tenure is not nearly as important as whether they are the best person for the job. Smart companies realize that if someone is performing below expectations, they need to be coached to productivity or replaced – there is no third option if a healthy organization matters to you.

Static organizations tend to embrace comfort zones, and are often built upon the “DITWLY” (Did It That Way Last Year) principle. This attitude precludes the advancement of change initiatives and cripples innovation. Albert Einstein said it best when he noted “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time.” Be the leader who is never satisfied with what is – be the leader who is focused on what if? Savvy leaders understand “fixing” something creates a false sense of completion, whereas “breaking” something creates a vision for a new beginning.

I’m asking you to consider breaking the existing leadership paradigms within your organization. Find a few sacred cows and lead them to slaughter. Examine what you measure and why you measure it. Look at how decisions are made and who is allowed to make them. Inject youth where none presently exists. Replace the office squatters (those who have mentally quit, but failed to physically leave). Don’t reward static thinking, encourage dissenting opinion and diversity of thought. Go break something.

The bottom line is this…Great leaders constantly challenge the present in order to find the path to the future. They challenge themselves, and they encourage others to challenge them as well. Leadership isn’t about being right, it’s about achieving the right outcome. Don’t agonize over this, and don’t ask permission; go break something. Meritocracy or Mediocrity – the choice is yours…

Thoughts?

Unleadership – A Crisis of Identity

Unleadership A Crisis of Identity

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

The most popular piece I authored last year was a column I wrote for Forbes on the art and science of what I refer to as pursuitology. As of this writing it had been read more than 260,000 times, had more than 5,000 Facebook shares, and more than 3,000 ReTweets – it clearly struck a chord with the leadership community. As I thought about why this short article resonated so strongly with readers, it occurred to me I had awakened people to a simple, yet very powerful realization…

The realization is this – many of today’s leaders are suffering from an identity crisis.  The magnitude of this crisis can range from a distorted, diluted, destructive, and in some cases deranged form of what they inaccurately define as leadership. Society has allowed the practice of leadership to be commoditized, which has made it all too common for non-leaders to assume leadership positions thus continuing the devolution of leadership as a practice.

When we devalue the worth of leadership, it only follows many people will in turn devalue their worth as a leader. Many leaders today simply do not understand what leadership is, which is precisely why we find ourselves in a crisis of leadership. I would suggest much of what we view today being represented as leadership is actually unleadership – a cheap imitation of the real thing by those who are role playing, but clearly are not leading.

The following is an excerpt from my book Leadership Matters: “…Why does all this matter? Because leadership matters – whether through malice or naiveté, those who trivialize the value of leadership place us all at risk. Poor leadership cripples businesses, ruins economies, destroys families, loses wars, and can bring the demise of nations. The demand for true leaders has never been greater -  when society misunderstands the importance of leadership, and when the world inappropriately labels non-leaders as leaders we are all worse for the wear.”

When leaders become lost and confused, it doesn’t just impact them – it creates a ripple effect through an organization with a destructive force much more closely resembling a tsunami. Leadership isn’t about maximizing a W-2, and it’s not about personal glory or media attention. Put simply, true leadership isn’t about the leader.

Leadership is more than a title; it’s a privilege and therefore a burden of the highest responsibility. Nothing is more dangerous than a leader who loses sight of their real purpose – to serve something greater than themselves. Leadership is about qualities that recognize others while bringing out the best in them. Leadership cannot flourish with small minds, thinking about small things, in small ways.

So, what is real leadership? Leadership is about giving credit not taking it, breaking down barriers not building them, destroying bureaucracies not creating them, bridging positional and philosophical gaps not setting boundaries, thinking big and acting bigger, being able to focus on short-term objectives without losing sight of long-term value, not focusing on the volume of outputs but the impact of said outputs, surrender not control, and most of all, leadership is about truly caring for those whom you serve.

My challenge to those “playing leadership” is to abandon the practice of unleadership. I encourage you to stop contributing to the crisis of leadership and instead begin contributing to a culture of leadership. Invest in your development, build into others, don’t tolerate the status quo, and inspire greatness. When it comes to leadership, it’s not enough to be all you can be, you must focus on helping others become all that they can be.

Thoughts?

Related Post: Leadership – What’s Next

Training Isn’t Dead – But it Should Be

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

In the text that follows I’m going to poke holes in a process generally accepted as productive, when it rarely is. I’ll likely take some heat over this, and while this post works off some broad generalizations, in my experience having worked with literally thousands of leaders, they are largely true. According to the American Society of Training and Development, U.S. businesses spend more than $170 Billion dollars on leadership based curriculum, with the majority of those dollars being spent on “Leadership Training.” Here’s the thing – when it comes to leadership, the training industry has been broken for years. You don’t train leaders you develop them – a subtle yet important distinction lost on many. Leadership training is alive and well, but it should have died long, long ago…

An Overview of The Problem
My problem with training is it presumes the need for indoctrination on systems, processes and techniques. Moreover, training assumes that said systems, processes and techniques are the right way to do things. When a trainer refers to something as “best practices” you can with great certitude rest assured that’s not the case. Training focuses on best practices, while development focuses on next practices. Training is often a rote, one directional, one dimensional, one size fits all, authoritarian process that imposes static, outdated information on people. The majority of training takes place within a monologue (lecture/presentation) rather than a dialog. Perhaps worst of all, training usually occurs within a vacuum driven by past experience, not by future needs.

The Solution
The solution to the leadership training problem is to scrap it in favor of development. Don’t train leaders, coach them, mentor them, disciple them, and develop them, but please don’t attempt to train them. Where training attempts to standardize by blending to a norm and acclimating to the status quo, development strives to call out the unique and differentiate by shattering the status quo. Training is something leaders dread and will try and avoid, whereas they will embrace and look forward to development. Development is nuanced, contextual, collaborative, fluid, and above all else, actionable.

The following 15 items point out some of the main differences between training and development:

  1. Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.
  2. Training focuses on technique – Development focuses on talent.
  3. Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.
  4. Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.
  5. Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.
  6. Training indoctrinates – Development educates.
  7. Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.
  8. Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.
  9. Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.
  10. Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.
  11. Training focuses on problems  - Development focuses on solutions.
  12. Training focuses on reporting lines – Development expands influence.
  13. Training is mechanical – Development is intellectual.
  14. Training focuses on the knowns – Development explores the unknowns.
  15. Training is finite – Development is infinite.

When it comes to current and future leaders, training will place them in a box, while development will free them from the box. If what you desire is a robotic, static thinker – train them. If you’re seeking innovative, critical thinkers – develop them. I have always said it is impossible to have an enterprise which is growing and evolving if leadership is not. What say you?

Leadership – What’s Next?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

There is no shortage of debate surrounding leadership when it comes to philosophy, style, definitional distinctions, nuances, complex theory, etc. That said, I believe most reasonable people would agree leadership is nothing if not personal. Leadership can represent a pursuit, discipline, practice, passion, calling, skill, competency, obligation, duty, compulsion, or even an obsession.  I’ve known those who have worshiped at the alter of leadership as a religion, and a bit of reflection will reveal more than a few leadership revolutions dotting the historical timeline. My goal with today’s post is to challenge your thinking and your perceptions with regard to the state of leadership. So, my question is this - what’s next for leadership? 

Think about this for a moment – with all our experience and all the research, with all the resources and all the focus on leadership, do you find it perplexing, if not altogether disturbing, that our world has never been more lacking for true leaders? Casual observation might lead you to conclude leadership has devolved rather than evolved. If you pay close attention to the media and world events, it would appear those serving themselves greatly outnumber those who place service above self. Here’s the thing - we’ll never all agree on what leadership is, or is not, but I think most reasonable people will concur it’s time for a change.

Why does all this matter? Because leadership matters…Whether through malice or naivete, those who abuse or tolerate the abuse of leadership place us all at risk…Poor leadership cripples businesses, ruins economies, destroys families, loses wars, and can bring the demise of nations. The demand for true leaders has never been greater - when society misunderstands the importance of leadership, and when the world inappropriately labels non-leaders as leaders we are all worse for the wear.

It’s time for less talk and more action. Leadership is not about the power and the accolades bestowed upon the leader, it’s about the betterment of those whom the leader serves. At its essence, leadership is about people. At its core, leadership is about improving the status quo, inspiring positive change, and challenging conventional thinking. As long as positional and philosophical arguments are more important than forward progress, as long as being right is esteemed above being vulnerable and open to new thought, as long as ego is elevated above empathy and compassion, as long as rhetoric holds more value than performance, and as long as we tolerate these things as acceptable behavior we will all suffer at the hands of poor leadership.       

So, back to my original question – what’s next for leadership? I submit it’s time for a leadership movement that values engagement, open dialog, and candid discourse above personal gain. A movement is a cause greater than one’s self – it’s a populist groundswell rather than an elitist academic exercise. A movement is intentional, impassioned and biased toward action. A movement requires a vision that’s inclusive, collaborative, and has an orientation toward service. Most of all, a movement requires people committed to change.

So, where do we start? My belief is that we start by sluaghtering as many sacred cows as we can find. We dispense with the trivial, and we begin majoring in the majors. We bring the best leadership minds together - I’m not talking about like-minded thinkers, but big thinkers open to challenging what is considered “normal” with the goal of shattering outdated thinking. We dialog and debate, but most of all we listen, learn and act. We focus on what’s wrong with leadership and we fix it.   This is where we start:

  • I’m calling for those willing to participate to share what they feel is wrong with leadership in the comment section below. Share with us your insights on flawed principles, practice, theory, doctrine or logic. Be candid – be clear – be bold.
  • I’ll select from the topics put forth in the comments below and create an agenda for a few live public debates that pierce at the heart of status quo with the hope of creating thought provoking discourse that leads to positive change.

If we get enough traction on meaningful topics we might just create a movement…Now’s your chance to express what you’ve been thinking in a venue that could make a difference – you in?

Looking For Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Really? Identifying leaders? Have we really degenerated to this point? News Flash – If you have to look for leadership it doesn’t exist…Today’s post is not going to sit well with many in the leadership profession, but then many of my posts seem to have that effect. My premise is a simple one – Leaders need no identification as they instinctively and inevitably make their presence very well known. Place a leader into any environment and their impact will be immediately recognized. There is truth in the old axiom that says “the cream rises to the top.”

Here’s the thing…you really don’t need to work too hard to identify leaders within an organization – they are the ones taking on the greatest levels of responsibility and delivering on their commitments. They are the ones innovating and breaking-down barriers. They are the ones who have earned the trust, loyalty and respect of their co-workers. They are the ones people turn to when things get tough. They are  the ones that inspire, motivate and challenge others. They are the ones that put the needs of others, as well as the needs of the organization, ahead of their own. They are the ones who provide alignment and direction. They are the ones who are engaged. They get the job done, they stand out from the crowd, they don’t need identifying – you know who they are.

I’ve seen many an executive or consultant attempt to identify leaders with interviews, tests, evaluations, etc., only to fail in miserable fashion. I’ve never been a fan of what I refer to as “make-work” disciplines. By that I mean practice areas that serve no real purpose other than to generate a revenue stream for a coach or consultant, or justify headcount within a department. In my opinion the practice of leadership identification is simply based upon flawed business logic, and it is make-work in the purest form. I’m a huge advocate of refining initiatives that allow any level of talent to be developed to the maximum potential. Leaders and non-leaders alike need career-pathing, training and development. I’m just not a believer in attempting to label someone as a leader, and develop them as such when they are clearly not.

Let me be very clear – there is not always a direct correlation between testing well and leading well. Don’t give people tests – give them responsibility. There is really only one sure fire method for identifying leaders – Do they have the character and integrity to do the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time. The answer to this test will be born out through their actions. Give them responsibility and see what they do with it. You’ll find out quickly enough if you have a leader.

Organizations short on leadership talent find themselves in such a position for a reason…current leadership failed to lead. If you find yourself within an organization that has a leadership vacuum you won’t fill it by drafting someone into a leadership role and hoping that they perform. Beyond the character test, the first prerequisite for leadership is the willingness to lead. As much as most companies don’t want to admit this, it is highly unlikely that you have anyone in your organization that has great leadership attitude and aptitude that hasn’t already been identified.

Bottom line…the way you identify leaders is not through psychological profiling or some miraculous transformative process. You identify leaders by their actions and their performance. Real leaders will find you…you don’t need to go looking for them.

Dare I ask for comments? Why not, I’m a glutton for punishment…

Leadership & Veterans Day

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Today’s post is part tribute, part rant, and part leadership tutorial. The tribute is to comemmorate the celebration of Veterans Day, the rant to vent some of my pent-up frustrations about what I view as some disturbing trends, and the leadership tutorial to share what I believe our business leaders can learn from their military counterparts. While my thoughts may seem to be a bit fractionalized at the outset, I believe you’ll find they actually tie together very nicely. If you only have time to read one post of mine, please read this one…

The Tribute:
I think the Bible says it the best: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” ~John 15:13. While many see Veterans Day as a time to mourn our nation’s losses, I prefer to view it as a day of respectful celebration subscribing to the philosophy of General George S. Patton, who said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” I’d also encourage you to find a tangible way to thank a Vet (or their family) for their service and sacrifice. While Veterans Day should be very personal to all of us, it is particularly so for those of us with active duty family members. Please leave a comment below and join me in wishing every military family our most sincere expression of gratitude.

The Rant (Tribute – Part II):
I don’t know about you, but I feel as if every day should be Veterans Day. One day a year is simply not sufficient to thank those who give so selflessly for the freedoms that we enjoy each and every day. I’m often taken aback at the cavalier fashion in which most of our nation deals with war. That’s right – we are a nation at war, and a war on multiple fronts. Pretending this is not the case is simply reckless, irresponsible, and quite frankly unpatriotic.

There are times when I long for days past when we were a unified nation. The biggest difference between today’s war and that of say World War II is that during the war years of the 1940s we were truly a “nation” at war. We were a nation united in a struggle against a common enemy. Winning the war consumed the entirety of our focus as a nation – it was the center of our national pride, it pulled us out of economic turmoil, it catalyzed our growth as an industrial giant, and our citizens lived each and every day in sacrifice for the greater common good.

The contrast with today is a stark one, and frankly not a good one. One of the differences between now and then is we had leadership that recognized what was at stake for us as a nation and they acted upon the conviction of doing the right thing – the necessary thing.  Not only is our current leadership sorely misguided, but there are far too many of our citizenry who selfishly choose to ignore the war, or worse yet protest the war in an effort to further their own interests and pacify their own inadequacies rather than give of themselves in service to our country. If as a nation we were to set aside partisan politics, personal interests, and selfish behavior we could accomplish great things once again, and the world would be a better place for those efforts. Perhaps it’s time to remember the words first uttered by Aesop, and later repeated by Washington, Lincoln and many of history’s greatest leaders: “United we stand and divided we fall.”

The Leadership Tutorial (Tribute – Part III):
I firmly believe that our nation’s military produces world class leadership talent. Today’s business leaders would be well served to possess the characteristics of our military leaders in their pursuit to achieve sustainable growth and long-term success. Commitment, attention to detail, discipline, service above self, honor, integrity, perseverance, the ability to both lead and follow, to execute with precision, and the ability to adapt, improvise & overcome are all traits that will serve you well in the boardroom.

“Service Above Self” is a statement that resonates with everyone who has ever been on the receiving end of the service. However, it has been my experience that the concepts of “Service Above Self” and “Servant Leadership” while often discussed, and always admired, are far too rarely practiced. It is precisely this shortcoming that accounts for many of the problems faced by our business leaders, but also by society as a whole. Look no further than our military leaders to understand the value of servant leadership.

The sad reality is that human nature adversely affects our perspective in that service is often undermined by short-sighted self interest. What most people intuitively understand, but fail to keep at the forefront of their thinking, is that our personal success and fulfillment will be much more closely tied to how we help others than what we do for ourselves…While there are many motivating factors which underpin a leaders decisioning, nothing is intrinsically more pure, and more inspiring than the call to serve. The dedication and commitment required to be a true servant leader requires a level of personal sacrifice that can only be instilled by a passionate belief in a greater good…something beyond one’s self.

There are many so-called management gurus in today’s politically correct world who would take great exception to what I’m putting forth in today’s post. They would tell you that the classic strong leadership traits that define our nation’s best military leaders are outdated, and that they don’t display a proper amount of empathy and compassion. I’m here to tell you that strength and compassion are not mutually exclusive terms…rather the strongest leaders are in fact the most compassionate leaders.

It has been my experience that nowhere will you find better examples of strong, compassionate leaders than those serving in our armed forces. A good military leader ensures their troops sleep before they do, eat before they do, and are cared for before they are. A leader’s greatest responsibility is not for his/her own glory, but it is for the well being of those whose care has been entrusted to said leader. Our corporations and institutions would be far better off if more CEOs adopted this philosophy, which our military leaders live out on a daily basis.

Much of who I am as a leader is a direct result of what I learned in the military. I have the honor of having a strong family military legacy dating back to the Civil War. More recently, my son is currently on active duty as an EOD officer in the US Air Force. I strongly recommend to all business leaders that they learn to develop a command presence, and lead from a committed and passionate position of strength. The word “passion” comes from a Latin root which means quite literally to suffer. If you’re passionate about something it means you care so much that it hurts…Refusing to surrender, and having the ability to make the tough decision or the needed sacrifice, will allow your company to continue taking ground and will keep the competitive advantage on the side of your enterprise.

Please share your thoughts below, and use this opportunity to thank a Vet.

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