Simple, practical, applicable
What Machiavelli Could Have Learned From Mandela December 11 2013 no responses
Along with his many accomplishments in life, Nelson Mandela logged at least one more in his death. It’s hard to imagine that any other leader could generate the level of praise that Mandela has in the past week from such a wide spectrum of other leaders on the world stage. Obama in the U.S., Putin in Russia, Castro in Cuba and Assad in Syria were just a few of the heads of state lending their voices to the global chorus of tributes to the life and legacy of Mandela. It’s quite a remarkable feat to get the four of them to agree on anything but Mandela did it.
There’s been a lot written in the past few days about why Mandela was so universally loved and admired. At the same time that the remembrances of Mandela are being written, however, one of the most e-mailed articles on The New York Times website this week is an opinion piece by John T. Scott and Robert Zaretsky titled, “Why Machiavelli Still Matters.” In their article, Scott and Zaretsky describe Machiavelli’s 15th century book, The Prince as “a manual for those who wish to win and keep power,” and state that “Machiavelli teaches that in a world where so many are not good, you must learn to be able to not be good.”
It’s fascinating to me that in the same week that so many are singing the praises of the life of Mandela so many are also e-mailing an article on Machiavelli to their friends and colleagues. It’s an interesting window into the yin and yang of the human condition.
I have no idea if Mandela read Machiavelli but from everything I’ve read about the South African leader’s life, I’m pretty sure that he didn’t practice what Machiavelli preached. If, through some miracle of time travel, the two were able to have had a conversation about the practice of leadership, I think Machiavelli could have learned some things from Mandela.
Here’s just one example of what he might have learned.
Mindful Mondays: A Perspective Check to Start the Week December 9 2013 2 responses
My parents have been in town this past weekend to celebrate a milestone birthday for my wife. While some of our crew went shopping on Friday, my dad and I spent the afternoon at LA’s Griffith Observatory. You can’t beat it for breathtaking views of earth and sky.
It was a light crowd on Friday so we were able to make a last minute decision to catch the 30 minute show at the Griffith’s planetarium. Half an hour later I walked out feeling very insignificant. Believe it or not, it was a humbling, awe inspiring and liberating experience to feel that way. Here’s why.
The Life of Nelson Mandela: Archbishop Tutu Describes It Best December 6 2013 one response
It would take days to read through all of the histories, reflections and tributes to the life of Nelson Mandela. I took an hour or so this morning to read as many as I could. There’s so much that can be learned about leadership from the life of Mandela. With the humility, forgiveness, selflessness, vision, creativity, resolve, warmth and so many other traits that he exhibited, he embodied the term servant leader.
In addition to any other articles you read on Mandela this weekend, I encourage you to read the personal reflections of his long time friend and partner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu in today’s Washington Post. It’s a lovely and personal summation of the character of Mandela and the impact his leadership had on his country and the world.
What are your reflections on the life and leadership of Nelson Mandela?
When Leadership Skills Trump Technical Skills December 4 2013 no responses
At some point in your career, your leadership skills need to trump your technical skills if you’re going to make the biggest possible impact. Most professionals start their careers as a subject matter expert in something. Quite often, the best subject matter experts get promoted into roles where they’re responsible for leading other subject matter or technical experts.
That’s the great inflection point where leadership skills begin to trump technical skills. It’s represented in this simple graph:
As the picture suggests, the higher you rise in leadership, the leverage in getting bigger things done comes from spending less time on your technical skills and more time exercising your leadership skills.
There’s a relatively simple way to prove this out which I’ve used in dozens of Next Level leadership workshops over the past few years. In a roomful of 70 or 80 leaders, I ask everyone to give their answers to this question:
What is it, given the leadership role that you’re in, that only you can do? What follows is, in no particular order, a typical list of answers and some thoughts about what the list tells us:
Mindful Mondays: Dealing with End of the Year Stress December 2 2013 no responses
In doing the research for a new book I’m writing, I’ve been reading a lot of old and new favorites on the topic of mindfulness. One of those is the recently released second edition of a classic in the field, Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. In 1979, Kabat-Zinn created the first Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for patients with all sorts of chronic conditions at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Since then hundreds of medical schools and hospitals around the world have implemented MBSR programs that have made life better for millions of people. Kabat-Zinn is a hero of mine and when I met him at the Wisdom 2.0 conference earlier this year, I acted like a total fan boy (as you can see in the accompanying picture).
A few days ago, I read a passage in the Kabat-Zinn book that played out for me in real life this past weekend. I’ll tell that story in a moment, but, first, my guess is you’ll relate to what he writes about here:
“your thoughts are just thoughts and… not ‘you’ or ‘reality’. For instance, if you have the thought that you have to get a certain number of things done today and you don’t recognize it as a thought but act as if it’s ‘the truth,’ then you have created a reality in that moment in which you really believe that those things must all be done today.”
As you think about all the things that you “have” to do between now and the end of the year, how does that make you feel? A little or a lot stressed? How does that stress show up in the way you feel in your body? How does it show up in your actions? Do you notice how your thoughts can literally lead to feelings that have an impact on your actions? What do you do about it?
Mindful Mondays: How to Give Thanks (Mindfully) November 25 2013 2 responses
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in the United States, I want to spend a few moments discussing how to give thanks.
I’m not talking about how you get ready to eat more than you usually do, spend time with relatives you don’t see that often or veg out in front of football game after football game. I’m not even talking about giving thanks for all the things you’re grateful for (although that’s always a good idea).
What I’m talking about is how to give thanks to the people in your life – at home, at work and in the community – who deserve it. When you stop and think about it, you probably come in contact with dozens of people on an average day who deserve your thanks.
If you’re like me, you probably say, “Thank you,” throughout the day because it’s the polite thing to do. It’s usually kind of mindless though isn’t it? It’s often just another conversational transaction in the course of the day.
So, this week, I invite you to join me in giving thanks to others so that they actually feel your gratitude. It would be interesting to see what happens if you set the intention of mindfully thanking at least one person each day for a week.
Here are some quick thoughts about how to do that:
If Peter Drucker Were Your Personal Coach… November 22 2013 one response
For more than 50 years of his almost 96 year life, Peter Drucker was known as the “Father of Modern Management.” His dozens of books included Concept of the Corporation, The Practice of Management and The Effective Executive.
Drucker was one of the few big thinkers who changed the way people view leadership. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have had him as your personal coach?
Relatively few people had that opportunity during Drucker’s life, but, fortunately, for the rest of us, Bruce Rosenstein has provided the next best thing in his new book, Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way. He’s the managing editor of Leader to Leader Journal which has a long association with Drucker, he has written a previous book on Drucker and he had the good fortune of conducting several multi-hour interviews with Drucker in the last years of his life.
In a recent conversation with Bruce, he told me that his goal for his new book was to show how to apply Drucker’s principles of leadership to one’s own life rather than the organization one happens to lead. In this brief recording, Bruce shared with me three big ideas on how Drucker’s systematic approach to creating the future can be applied to your own life.
It might just be the next best thing to having Peter Drucker as your personal coach.
Listen in for more.
Three Things Leaders Can Still Learn from JFK November 20 2013 one response
The coverage this week of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy is a stark reminder of the impact his life and death had on the United States and the world. With the perspective of fifty years, it’s easy to argue for or against Kennedy’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s easy to debate what he did or didn’t accomplish. You may think he was a great president or you may not.
Still, on this anniversary of his death, I would argue there are still some things that leaders can learn from JFK. Here (with links to JFK videos that illustrate the points) are three things that I think leaders can still learn from John F. Kennedy.
Mindful Mondays: The End of “Stow Your Devices” November 18 2013 3 responses
On two cross country flights last week, I unexpectedly marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. I had read, with great joy, that the Federal Aviation Administration intended later this year to abolish the requirement that passengers turn off and stow their electronic devices between the closing of the cabin door and reaching 10,000 feet. The implementation of the change snuck up on me. I was taken aback last week when the flight attendants on United said that we could leave our devices on after the door was closed.
At first, I was thrilled. I kept reading articles and checking my emails with abandon. As we started taxiing toward the runway, I was reading and swiping away waiting for a flight attendant to come up behind me and tell me to turn it off and put it away. It felt weird that that never happened.
Then I noticed that absolutely no one was paying attention to the preflight safety announcements. Just like so many other places in modern life, everyone’s eyes were fixed on the screen in their hands.
I started feeling sorry for the flight attendants. I wondered what it’s like to stand there in the aisle sharing information that could save lives in the event of an emergency with no one paying attention.
It made me sad, actually, that we could all keep our devices out. An airliner was one of the last places on earth (or above) where you were forced to stow the device. As much as that used to annoy me, I realized last week that it was for my own good. It kept me safe and it made me slightly more mindful. Even though I don’t have to anymore, I think I’m still going to stow the device when they close the cabin door.
How about you? What event is coming up this week where it would be a great idea to stow your device even though you don’t have to?
The Single Best Thing You Can Do to Be More Creative November 15 2013 one response
If your answer to these questions is yes, that’s awesome – keep going. If your answer is no or I don’t know, there’s a single best thing you can do to be more creative.
In a recent conversation I had with David Burkus, assistant professor of management at Oral Roberts University and author of the new book, The Myths of Creativity, he made the point that most creative ideas come through combining pre-existing ideas.
So, the most important thing you can do to raise your creativity and that of the people you lead is to seek out stimulus and ideas from all over. Go deep on your knowledge on your specific expertise or responsibility and go wide on paying attention to what’s going on around you.
Here’s an old school example of how that plays out in real life. As David pointed out to me, Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile. He didn’t invent the assembly line either. But Ford paid attention to how the Swift meat packing company used a “disassembly” line to prepare different cuts of beef. He combined that idea with his deep knowledge of autos to create the modern manufacturing process.
In this brief interview, David shares more about how you can spark your own creativity and that of your organization. Listen in for more.