Leadership and Memorial Day

Leadership and Memorial Day

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth  

Is Memorial Day weekend just another holiday, or does it mean something more to you? While this weekend simply signifies a long awaited prelude to summer for some, it is much more than that for others. As a veteran and lifelong student of leadership I have always found Memorial Day weekend to be one of the most meaningful and significant of all holidays. In the text below I’ll share  why I believe all business executives can learn valuable leadership lessons from those in uniform.

Memorial Day not only provides great opportunity for introspective reflection, but the stories of what constitutes great leadership surrounding this holiday are frankly too numerous to count.  The more I reflect on the courage and heroism of our military (past and present), the more I realize the same characteristics present in the heart of a warrior are nothing short of a blueprint for success with respect to the leadership traits that should also be present in our business leaders.

There is nothing more special than someone who gives of themselves for others, and nowhere is this more evident than with those who serve in the military. There is also no better example of leadership than what you witness taking place as a matter of routine on military installations and in areas of operation around the globe. Of course there are notable exceptions, but they in fact do remain the exception and not the rule.

While it is clearly not necessary for an executive to have military experience to be an effective leader, I would submit that today’s business leaders would do well to possess the characteristics of a warrior in their pursuit to become better leaders and to build better organizations. Commitment, passion, attention to detail, discipline, service above self, honor, integrity, perseverance, compassion, the ability to both lead and follow, to execute with precision, and the ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome are representative traits possessed by successful military leaders. From personal experience I can absolutely guarantee you that these same traits will serve you well as a business leader.

The characteristics mentioned above will allow you to inspire and lead with a focus and commitment not present in DNA of those leaders who don’t possess a warrior’s heart. It is the ability to stay mentally focused on achieving the mission at hand, regardless of circumstances, that will help you take your organization to that next level.

While the following may not be politically correct, I believe it nonetheless represents the truth – it also takes guts to be a leader.  Our military represents our nation’s best – they are motivated, committed, passionate, honorable individuals with a clear sense of duty, and who hold in high regard the principle of service above self. Let’s face it, it takes a unique individual to knowingly and willingly walk toward a life threatening situation placing his/her life at risk in order that other lives may be saved. Our military embodies the character, sense of duty, commitment, and the values our nation was built upon. How many of you would choose to make an uncompromising stand on your principles and values if you knew the outcome would result in certain death?

Examine the most successful business leaders and you’ll find they possess this same zeal – they don’t see their leadership role as just a job, but rather they view it as a passion; a calling if you will. Moreover, it is those leaders who receive the negative press, those leaders who just can’t seem to get the job done that universally seem to be void in some or all of the aforementioned traits.

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 they don’t display a proper amount of empathy and compassion. They could not be more wrong – strength and compassion are not mutually exclusive terms. The strongest leaders are in fact the most compassionate leaders. Examine any great military leader and their troops sleep before they do, eat before they do, and they 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 them. While not all great business leaders have served in the military, those of you who have worked to develop the leadership traits mentioned above understand the advantages you derive from a having a military leadership state of mind.

I strongly recommend to all business leaders they learn to develop a command presence, and lead from a committed and passionate position of strength through service. For those of you who don’t know, 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 – it means you’re willing to suffer greatly to advance your cause. Refusing to surrender, having the ability to make the tough decision, the needed sacrifice, and the focus to place fiduciary obligations above your self interest will allow your company to continue taking ground and will keep the competitive advantage on the side of your enterprise. Remember that the world does not revolve around you, but rather what you can do for others through the privileges afforded to you by nature of your role as a leader…

Please leave a comment below and thank someone for their service or their support of those who have served…

 

Leadership – It’s About The People

Leadership – It’s About The People

Leadership – It’s About The People

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

If you think leadership is about you, your ego has led you astray. Leadership has little to do with you and everything to do with those you lead. If you think leadership is about the bottom line, think again; it’s about the people. Without the people there is no bottom line. Closely examine the core characteristics of great leadership, and you’ll find it’s not power, title, authority or even technical competency that distinguishes truly great leaders. Rather it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. Leadership lives and dies by it’s ability to engage, influence, and care for the people. Are those you lead better off for being led by you?

It’s Not About You
Many view leadership as little more than a stage from which to promote themselves. While it’s true being in a position of leadership may afford you a marvelous platform, it’s important to recognize there exists no leadership platform but for the people. You didn’t build the platform, the people you lead built the platform and have entrusted it’s care and well being to you – forget this and failure is certain.

Why Do You Lead?
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 altar of leadership as a religion, and a bit of reflection will reveal more than a few leadership revolutions dotting the historical timeline. Do you lead to glorify yourself, or for a purpose greater than yourself?

Leadership is about trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps, survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur on your leadership journey.

If You Don’t Care About Those You Lead – You Have No Business Leading Them
You don’t change mindsets by being right, you do it by showing you care. Logic and reason have their place, but they rarely will overcome a strong emotional or philosophical position. Trying to cram your positional logic down the throat of others will simply leave a very bad taste in their mouths. This is a very tough lesson for many to learn, but a critical one if you take your duties, obligations and responsibilities as a leader seriously.

The best leaders are capable of aligning and unifying opposing interests for a greater good. You won’t ever become a truly successful leader until you understand a person’s need to be heard and understood is much more important than satisfying your need to impart wisdom (see: Shut-up and Listen). I’m going to make this as simple as I can; leadership is all about the people – nothing more & nothing less.

It Doesn’t Matter Who’s Right
Being right isn’t the goal – accomplishing the mission is. It’s not about being right it’s about achieving the right outcome. If you can only lead those who agree with you then you will have a very small sphere of influence. Stop and think about this for a moment – history is littered with powerful leaders who have fallen, failed, or who have been replaced, usurped or betrayed. Fear doesn’t engender loyalty, respect or trust – it breeds resentment and malcontent. A leader not first and foremost accountable to their people will eventually be held accountable by their people.

Let me be clear – I’m in no way espousing form over substance. This is not solely an issue of likability, but one of trust and respect. That said, you will rarely find likability absent where trust and respect are present. Smart leaders put their people first and keep their commitments. They understand that promises made are meaningless, promises broken are costly, and promises kept are invaluable. It doesn’t matter where you went to school, how smart you are, or what your title is, if you want to succeed as a leader, take care of your people.

As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below…

Greatness & Tragedy

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Few things highlight great acts of selflessness and heroism more than tragedy. This weekend’s helicopter crash in Afghanistan was a horrific loss for the families of our fallen warriors, but also for our nation as a whole. The men who perished in the crash were in fact our nation’s best. They were courageous men who placed service above self, who went places and did things that most of us could never conceive of, and who died to protect our freedom and way of life. What I’m struggling with is whether or not as a country we are deserving of their sacrifice…

I spent a great deal of my weekend just watching people. We are a nation at war, a world in economic crisis, a planet in moral decay, and yet most people I observed just go through the motions of their daily lives seemingly void of what happens beyond the shopping malls, golf courses, and various other forms of alternate reality. I’ve been feeling for quite some time that people are disconnected from any reality that isn’t immediately visible to them, and I’m increasingly troubled by the cavalier attitudes of the those in “leadership.” Yet in times such as these there are still men and women willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so that others may live their lives and exercise their individual freedoms. We lost some of these extraordinary men this weekend, and I hope their loss jolts us from our fog of ignorance, apathy, and naiveté.

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 leader’s 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. As a nation we need to honor this weekend’s loss by living-up to the example set by our troops. We need to move away from self-interest and toward service. The good news is greatness overcomes tragedy, and the power of a lasting and honorable legacy can fuel greatness that spans generations.

Between ongoing military conflicts and wars, brutal acts of dictators, famines, droughts, violent flash mobs, riots, the frequency of economic calamity, and the almost daily forms of political hi-jinks and chicanery, it is impossible to view the current state of world affairs and not be troubled. Yet most people act as if nothing is wrong, and that everything will be okay. Will it? Perhaps, but of one thing I’m certain – we’ll never return to the world we knew growing up. What’s particularly troubling is that our children and grandchildren may never experience the innocence and charm of the childhoods we knew.

Other than in its creation our world has never been perfect, and we’ll likely never experience perfection going forward. That’s okay, and most of us can accept that fact. What’s difficult for me is that we live in far too dangerous times to exhibit such callous disregard for anything other than ourselves, and if we as a nation don’t wake-up to this fact we will continue to see more chaos. Our nation was built on the high cost of sacrifice by those willing to see beyond themselves, and today it is defended by such men and women. But know this – they cannot preserve ideals that we ignore, do not honor, or refuse to embrace. Hoping everything will get better is not the same thing as doing something about it.

In a time where our world is starved for those who take action on behalf others, if nothing else, let us honor those who did just that with their sacrifice this weekend. My advice is simple, don’t pretend everything is okay and ignore the examples of heroism, but rather pray for our military and their families while keeping them in the forefront of our thoughts and actions. The more we adopt a servant’s heart and a warrior’s commitment and discipline the better off we will all be. The following links will take you to just a few of the organizations’ who would gladly accept your contribution of money or service. If you cannot do either of those, at least honor our troops and their families by not forgetting what they give for you at such great cost to themselves and their loved ones.

If you want to comment or offer support to our troops and their families via this platform I’d encourage you to do so.

Humility and Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Humility and LeadershipNews Flash – the phrase “humble leadership” is not an oxymoron. While many people immediately conjure-up an image of the ever so confident, bombastic extrovert without an ounce of humility as the picture of what constitutes a real leader, nothing could be further from the truth.  As my wife has always said, “Those who talk the most usually have the least to say.” While feigned humility is the height of insincerity, authentic humility is the most sincere form of confidence and strength. Leaders need to understand that being authentically humble humanizes them, allows them to build stronger trust bonds, and engenders confidence & loyalty from peers and subordinates alike. In today’ post I’ll share my thoughts on the value of learning to become a humble leader…

It’s been said that life is a long lesson in humility. As a leader, the sooner you come to grips with your humility the better leader you’ll become. Over the years I have come to believe that “having class” is synonymous with demonstrating a penchant for humility over bravado. True leaders possess a quiet confidence that attracts attention like a magnet. It is the genuine nature of their subtle & quiet charisma/presence, and not the decibel level of their rhetoric that draws you in. True self-confidence is reflected in a person’s deeds and actions, and not in their ability to boast. One of the worst things a leader can do is to let their ego write checks their talent can’t cash…

Humility is actually the trait that magnifies all other positive attributes. Without humility all of a leader’s other strengths become diminished if not invisible. It’s been said that greatness lies not in trying to be somebody, but in trying to help somebody. Humility also happens to be the surest sign of authenticity in someone who claims to be a servant leader. Is it possible to be a leader without being humble? Sure it is…but it is much, much more difficult, rarely sustainable, and leaders who lack humility are always called into question with regard to motives and agendas.

When you think of a true leader do you envision someone who displays a quiet confidence or a blatant arrogance?  While a reserved attitude of humility can often be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness, if you’ve ever negotiated with a truly confident person who is authentically humble, you’ll find that their resolve is often much greater than the feigned confidence of the arrogant. While hubris can be a needed trait to call upon at times, to rely solely upon it as the foundation of your leadership style just doesn’t work. It was C.S. Lewis who said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking about yourself less.” Simply put, humble leaders recognize and value the contributions of others in lieu of self-promotion.

The truth of the matter is that few things have inspired and motivated me over the years like the quiet confidence and humility of great leaders. I would much rather listen to the self-deprecating humor of a confident person making fun of themselves than the mean spirited attacks of an arrogant person waged at someone else’s expense. More importantly, I would much rather work for, or along side of, the understated than the overstated. Those professionals who have self respect, and demonstrate a true respect for others regardless of their station in life, are much more likely to be successful over the long-term than those who use the tactics of disrespect to humiliate and intimidate.

Contrary to popular folklore, it’s important to note that nice guys & gals don’t finish last. Leaders who display authentic humility have broader spheres of influence, attract better talent, engender more confidence, and earn more loyalty and respect than do those leaders who rely solely upon their chutzpa and their ability to brandish their bravado. If what you’re seeking is lasting relationships, long-term success, and a better quality of life (in and out of the workplace) then you’ll be well served to forgo the pompous acts of the arrogant, and substitute the humility and quiet confidence displayed by true leaders.

If you have any interesting stories about leaders who either possessed great humility, or were sorely lacking in that regard, I’d encourage you to share your experience by leaving a comment below. Thanks in advance for sharing…

Definition of Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Leadership DefinedWhat’s your definition of Leadership? In thinking about the comments I’ve received from readers on the topic of leadership I noticed an interesting paradox…while many of you vehemently disagree on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of different leadership styles, most of you are in total agreement on the qualities and attributes possessed by great leaders regardless of style. In further pondering this dichotomy an interesting thought came to mind – If I could genetically engineer the perfect leadership gene what qualities and characteristics would constitute the architecture of leadership DNA? In today’s blog post I’ll attempt to paint the portrait of the perfect leader…

So, what traits would my perfect leader possess? Courage, character, vision, wisdom, integrity, empathy, persistence, compassion, aggressivity, discernment, commitment, confidence, a bias to action, a servant’s heart, determination, creativity, self-discipline, love, loyalty, confidence, outstanding decisioning ability, engaged, authentic, transparent, a great strategic thinker, passion, a positive attitude, intelligence, humility, great communication skills, common sense, generosity, the ability to identify and develop great talent, creating a certainty of execution, attention to detail, faith, an active listener, a prolific learner, respect for others, innovative, excellent tactical capability, charisma, extreme focus, a high risk tolerance, a broad range of competencies, and the list goes on…

If any of you possess all the above attributes please forward your resume to my attention! All kidding aside, the longer my list of desirable qualities became, the more I realized the frivolity of this exercise…There is no perfect leader; only the right leader for a given situation. As I’ve said in other posts, great leaders have the innate ability to call on the right skills in a contextually and environmentally appropriate fashion. No single leader can possess every needed attribute. It not the traits you possess as a leader, but what you do with them that matter. If I were successful in my genetic engineering exercise I would no doubt have created a leader who would be driven crazy by emotional and intellectual conflicts.

Leadership DNA aside, I recently crafted my definition of leadership. It contains what I believe to be the necessary qualities a leader must possess to be successful. While it’s a bit wordy, I’ve found it to inclusively articulate the principles needed for effective leadership :

“Leadership is the professed desire and commitment to serve others by subordinating personal interests to the needs of those being led through effectively demonstrating the experience, humility, wisdom and discernment necessary to create the trust & influence to cause the right things, to happen for the right reasons, at the right times.”

Since one of the leadership qualities I noted in the laundry list above is wisdom, I thought I’d leave you with the wisdom of others…Spend a few minutes pondering the quotes below as you consider some of the qualities which play into the make-up of great leaders:

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
- Abraham Lincoln

“There can be no power without mystery. There must always be a ‘something’ which others cannot altogether fathom, which puzzles them, stirs them, and rivets their attention…. Nothing more enhances authority than silence. It is the crowning virtue of the strong, the refuge of the weak, the modesty of the proud, the pride of the humble, the prudence of the wise, and the sense of fools.”
- Charles de Gaulle

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
- Albert Einstein

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
- Stephen R. Covey

“It’s not the will to win that matters…everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”
- Paul “Bear” Bryant

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”
- Lee Iacocca

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”
- Willa A. Foster

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
- John Wayne

“The true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in doing so will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price.”
- Eugene B. Habecker

“Doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results, is the definition of crazy.”
- Unknown

“Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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

“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.”
- Woodrow Wilson

“Even if you’re on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
- Will Rogers

“When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not. Disagreement, at this state, stimulates me. But once a decision is made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.”
- General Colin Powell

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”
- Dale Carnegie

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
- Helen Keller

“Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasion move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.”
- Benjamin Franklin

“A person who is fundamentally honest doesn’t need a code of ethics. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are all the ethical code anybody needs.”
- Harry S. Truman

Please comment below sharing your thoughts and insights on what you believe defines great leadership.

Service Above Self

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Service demands sacrifice“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. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts on the value of becoming a true servant leader…

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. 

Let me provide you with a personal example…I just returned from Virginia where my son commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force on Saturday, and graduated from the University of Virginia on Sunday. My son is an exceptionally bright and talented individual who had every option under the sun available to him upon graduation. Rather than head off to Wall Street or to a large consulting firm, he and his fellow cadets chose to serve. They were not cajoled or coerced, but rather they felt a calling to serve as officers in the US military leading other men and women of service.

It is precisely their 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, and overcome that distinguish them from those that seek personal glory over service. My son and his friends are just one example (but a good one) of what character and integrity when combined with a servant’s heart can accomplish.

The characteristics mentioned above will allow you to inspire and lead with a focus and commitment not present in DNA of those leaders who don’t possess a servant’s heart. It is the ability to stay mentally focused on achieving the mission at hand through service, regardless of circumstances, that will help you take your organization to that next level. 

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 they don’t display a proper amount of empathy and compassion. However, 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. When I was in the service my troops slept before I did, they ate before I did, and they were cared for before I was. 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 them.

A warrior’s heart, and the spirit of a servant leader have served my family well in both business and life in general. It is the mental agility, a fierce determination, a never say die attitude, and placing other’s interests above our own that has carried us through the best of times and the worst of times. My father was a Marine before he was an attorney, I served in the Army before I entered the business world, and well, I’m sure you can tell how proud I am of my son’s choice to serve in the Air Force. While not all great business leaders have served in the military, those of you who possess the spirit of a servant leader understand the advantages you derive from a having a servant’s state of mind.

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 through service. 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, having the ability to make the tough decision, the needed sacrifice, and the focus to place fiduciary obligations above your self interest will allow your company to continue taking ground and will keep the competitive advantage on the side of your enterprise. Remember that the world does not revolve around you, but what you can do for others…