Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

Mindful Mondays: What Do We Agree On? January 12 2015 2 responses

parismarch1Yesterday, millions of people in Paris and around the world marched in solidarity against hate and for human rights. In Paris, the march was led by 40 heads of government from around the world. On the front line, spaced four people away from each other, were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

By marching together, these two leaders along with the 38 others and millions of citizens in Paris and around the world showed a lot of mindfulness. They were all aware of the import of the moment and intentional in demonstrating a strong and clear stand for common values. Netanyahu and Abbas put aside deep and long standing differences to show their support for what they agree on.

All of those who marched on Sunday offer a perspective check for the rest of us. As we begin a new week and a new year, let’s stop and consider how we can work with and build on the values we agree on.

Seven Things Leaders Can Learn from Bill Clinton About Connecting with People November 13 2014 9 responses

bill-clinton1Delivering his monologue after the midterm elections last week, David Letterman was talking about President Obama’s low approval ratings and landed a great line:

“Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon – under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6%, whoever thought? Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder the guy is so unpopular.”

As Letterman said, before delivering his punch line, being President of the United States is a “lonely, lonely gig.”

Being an ex-President of the United States? Not so much. According to Gallup, the most popular ex-Prez is Bill Clinton. His approval rating earlier this year was 64%. There are probably a lot of reasons for that. Most Presidents are more popular out of office than in. In Clinton’s case, he likely gets a lot of credit for the work he’s doing through his Foundation. He also does a lot of public appearances and is a master communicator and connector.

Earlier this week, I got to see exactly how much of a master he is when President Clinton spoke to a packed house for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. For just under 90 minutes, Clinton held an audience of 1,500 people rapt as he answered questions on everything from Ebola to education to Putin to what his most favorite thing was about being President (that last question was submitted by the moderator’s 4th grade son).

There were a lot of things I noticed Clinton doing that makes him world class at connecting with an audience. There were a lot of lessons that leaders can use to connect with their people. Here are seven of them:

What Leaders Must Learn from the NFL Fiasco September 18 2014 one response

nfl-logoThe speed and volume of the emerging fiasco facing the NFL has been breathtaking. In the first football weekend after the League’s response to the video of Ray Rice punching his fiancé, there were players with similar charges against them scheduled to play on Sunday. One was pulled just before game time; the other played.

The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson was suspended for Sunday’s game because he was indicted for child abuse a couple of days earlier. After the Patriots beat the Vikings soundly without their star running back in the game, the team reinstated Peterson for this week’s game. Then Radisson, one of their corporate sponsors, suspended their support. At 1:30 am the following morning, the team suspended Peterson again.

Meanwhile, a star player with the Arizona Cardinals has been arrested for domestic abuse, the NFL has recruited four prominent women to advise them on how to move forward and Tuesday night they staged a fashion show in New York complete with models from Victoria’s Secret to promote their new line of women’s apparel.


There are so many things that leaders can learn from this fiasco. The dangers of hubris, the need for transparency in the age of social media, the challenges of becoming huge in a relatively short amount of time all come to mind. All good lessons for sure but there is one lesson that I think leaders must learn and take to heart from the events of the past couple of weeks. It’s the requirement that leaders and their organizations be consistent.

The NFL Shows That Culture Change (Or the Lack of It) Starts at the Top September 12 2014 one response

uphillclimbIn the annals of interesting timing, it doesn’t get much better than an article that ran in the Financial Times this past Monday morning. It was a piece titled, “The HR Guy Cleaning Up NFL Locker Rooms” and described how the League’s new head of HR is on a mission to get rid of bullying, homophobia and racist language in the workplaces of the NFL’s 32 teams. As the new NFL CHRO, Robert Gulliver, said in the article, “Football is special and important, but this is also a workplace and we have to reinforce the idea that there are certain standards of workplace conduct.”

Nice sentiment. And then, as anyone who was exposed to cable news or the internet over the past week knows, on Monday afternoon the celebrity gossip site TMZ released the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancé (now wife) in an elevator. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had suspended Rice for two games a few months ago when another video clip showed him dragging his fiancé out of the elevator after knocking her out.  Hardly anyone felt like a two game suspension was enough punishment but Goodell stuck with his decision on Rice. He stuck with it until the second video of the punch became public. Within hours, Rice was cut from the Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the NFL. And now we’re down to a case of what did Goodell and the League know about the Rice case and when did they know it? The timeline will be investigated by a former director of the FBI.

Which brings me back to the Financial Times article. In opening the piece, the columnist Andrew Hill writes that “even by the thankless Sisyphean standard of such culture-change programs, the National Football League is beginning at the foot of the hill.” Later, in summing up the task before the HR chief Gulliver, Hill writes, “So if you are standing at the bottom of the mountain, worrying about the long ascent, remind yourself that the worst thing you can do is to delay starting the climb.”

Fair enough, but you can’t expect to make the climb by yourself. The challenge facing Robert Gulliver or anyone else responsible for a culture-change program is that there has to be alignment between what you’re asking people to do and what those same people see from the top leadership. The hypocritical, craven way in which the NFL has handled the Ray Rice domestic abuse case renders any meaningful chance of culture-change mute. Culture change doesn’t start with a program, it starts with top leadership. And, in that respect, the NFL is sorely lacking.

What’s your take?

What Leaders Can Learn About Trust from Vladimir Putin August 13 2014 2 responses

putin1Given his track record in Crimea and Ukraine over the past several months, you wouldn’t think there is much that leaders could learn about trust from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The shoot down of the Malaysian Air flight, the Russian-backed rebels, the troops massed on the Ukrainian border, the government-stoked propaganda in Russian media and the current “humanitarian” convoy that the Russian army is driving into Ukraine have blown the international community’s trust in Putin out of the water.

So, what in the heck could a leader learn about trust from Putin? It’s one of those what-not-to-do kind of lessons. An article in the New York Times about Germany’s changing relationship with Putin sets the table for the lesson. A longtime German politician named Gernot Erler is quoted in the article. Erler has been working on establishing a stronger relationship between Germany and Russia for decades. He’s done with that. As he said in the article:

“The policy of Vladimir Putin is destroying reserves of trust with breathtaking speed. Russia is not naming its goals and has suddenly become unpredictable. And being unpredictable is the greatest enemy of partnership. Restoring trust will take time.”

And in that quote is the lesson about trust. People won’t trust you if you’re unpredictable.

As I’ve written here before, my favorite explanation of trust comes from Fernando Flores. He believes trust is dependent on three factors: Sincerity, Credibility and Competence. You could argue that when it comes to at least the first two of those three factors, Putin has proven to be predictably unpredictable.

Of course, most leaders aren’t in a position to disrupt the world order in the way that Putin has, but, within their own domain, they can either do a lot of good or damage in the way they build or break trust.

If you’re a leader (or parent or friend or co-worker), it might be really useful to ask yourself on a regular basis, “What am I doing to build or break trust?” Taking a look at your sincerity, credibility and competence are a good place to start the self-exam. For good measure, you might want to throw predictability into the mix.

What’s your take? What are the most impactful ways to either build trust or break it?

Dan Snyder and the First Rule of Holes June 19 2014 one response

daniel-snyder1The first rule of holes is that when you’re in one, quit digging. Apparently, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder didn’t get that memo. He’s in a deep hole and continues to dig.

Long time readers of this blog know that I am not a fan of Snyder. Back in 2009, I wrote a rant/takedown on his leadership style that, to my surprise, landed me on TV. I am sorry to report that not much has changed since then including his insistence on sticking with the offensive name of his team.

You may have seen the news that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled the Redskins trademark registration because its disparaging to Native Americans. Of course it is, as this devastating television ad that the National Congress of American Indians ran during the NBA Finals makes clear.

It’s highly unlikely that Dan Snyder would ever call on me for advice but if he did, my counsel would be simple – “Dude, stop digging.”

If you’re a leader, you will sometimes find yourself on the wrong side of an argument. When you do, the best choice is to acknowledge your mistake and look for a graceful resolution.

Chris Christie: “I am not a bully.” Not His Call to Make. January 9 2014 5 responses

christieAs I write this, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has just finished a press conference to explain why he’s not at fault for last year’s George Washington Bridge toll lane closures that created nightmare commutes and endangered public safety for the citizens of Fort Lee, NJ. As you may have read, emails have surfaced that prove that lieutenants of Christie engineered the lane closures in retaliation for the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee not endorsing the reelection of the Republican governor. The smoking gun was an email from Christie’s deputy chief of staff to his former campaign manager who worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that said, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

The story has been brewing for months now and, as has been his M.O. as governor, Christie recently blew off questions about it with jokes that implied people were stupid for even asking about it. Once the emails came out this week that proved that some of his top staffers were behind the closures, Christie expressed his “outrage” that this kind of thing had gone on.

There were a lot of notable moments in Christie’s press conference. One was when he talked about the “abject stupidity” of his just fired deputy chief of staff. Another was when he said, “I am not a bully.”

Alas, if you have to declare you’re not a bully, you probably are.

What Machiavelli Could Have Learned From Mandela December 11 2013 no responses

macciavelliAlong 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.

The Life of Nelson Mandela: Archbishop Tutu Describes It Best December 6 2013 one response

mandela-tutuIt 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?

Three Things Leaders Can Still Learn from JFK November 20 2013 one response

jfkThe 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.