This NYT Q&A with Dr. Deborah Dunsire was a timely reminder about the importance of occassionally loosening the reins of leadership for the sake of the teams' development.
This NYT Q&A with Dr. Deborah Dunsire was a timely reminder about the importance of occassionally loosening the reins of leadership for the sake of the teams' development.
In the last several days:
In the words of Sesame Street, "One of these things is not like the other...."
Most of us rarely take the time to step back and put our day to day "issues" in perspective. In fact, the best part about taking a few days off for vacation is that it allows me to disengage from the tyranny of the moment, and remind myself what is really happening in my life.
There's an old saying that we should "count our blessings". Interestingly enough, I don't necessarily think of this as being simply a spiritual exercise, though it is rooted in the Scriptures.
I think that, regardless of your beliefs, it is simply good psychological hygiene to periodically take the time to enumerate the small and the large blessings that most of us enjoy. Start with the things we often take for granted: life, air in our lungs, freedom from hunger, access to clean water.
Move then to the things that could be worse: Still have a job? Check. Kids fairly well behaved? Count it.
Ultimately, not only will we have a healthier, more balanced view on our situations, but we're bound to find ourselves in a state of contentment that is rare and precious today.
After that, even the colleagues at work will be easier to deal with.
I won't even try to hide my admiration for all things Pixar. Not only are their films consistently entertaining (yes, even Wall-E), but they seem to be a company committed to excellence in everything they do.
But when I read stuff like this, I am impressed by their willingness to be exceptional. To do things other company's probably could do, too, but often don't.
As I understand it, Pixar sent an employee to the home of a dying girl to show her their new film Up literally hours before she passed away.
Can you imagine the bureaucracy and approvals that would have to be navigated in most companies to make that happen? Yet the Pixar team managed to pull it off.
As a business leader, it's always good to be reminded to remain flexible and responsive enough to do the right thing.
Try to follow this thread of logic.
I'm a believer that we need to constantly examine, challenge and review the norms in any society, culture, organization.
In fact, it's rarely a bad idea to be "radical" in the literal meaning of the word: "
In any case, part of my "old school" bias has made me crave a new approach to my physical fitness regimen. I've been a gym member off and on since college, but over the last several months, I've sought a more traditional - yet no less rigorous - strategy for maintaining my fitness.
So, after getting humbled about how fit I thought I was, I started to consider ways to improve my fitness. I've always had a like/hate relationship with running. I do enjoy the scenery and I can't argue with the endorphin rush I feel immediately after a run.
It's the ankle/achilles tendon/calf/knee/back/hip pain I would feel hours later that have made my runs few and far between.
At the same time, though, I have always wondered how indigenous people (or, perhaps better labeled "radical people") could run all over the Serengeti, the Sonora or the steppes without the benefits of modern footwear.
Here's where it gets interesting.
There's a growing body of evidence that most of our running-related ailments come not from the act of running (which humans have been doing since God put us here), but rather from the shoes we now wear and the way that our biomechanics change to compensate for the shoes!
All of a sudden, seeing the gent in the photo above smiling as he's running in SANDALS starts to make some sense. I doubt if he will be icing his knees when he's done with what is likely a 50-100 mile run.
We'll see if Carmen let's me start running barefoot. :-)
Longtime “Speak Softly…” readers will recall that I was impressed by comments made by then-Governor George W. Bush during the 2000 Presidential Campaign about the importance of America remaining humble, even as the lone remaining superpower.
After what has transpired in the intervening nine years, that comment seems almost quaint. If anything, our society has celebrated hubris and chutzpah over humility.
But that doesn’t make the comment any less relevant or true.
On a recent airing of the program FAREED ZAKARIA GPS, Mr. Zakaria interviewed Robert Gates, who has served as Defense Secretary under President Bush and President Obama.
The entire interview was engaging. But this was a particularly interesting exchange:
ZAKARIA: President Obama -- you've heard a lot of Republican
criticism that he's going around the world apologizing about America. Do you
GATES: Well, I like to remind people that, when President George W. Bush came into office, he talked about a more humble America. And, you know, you go back to Theodore Roosevelt and his line about speaking softly, but carrying a big stick.
I think that acknowledging that we have made mistakes is not only factually accurate, I think that it is unusual, because so few other governments in the world are willing to admit that, although they make them all the time. And some of them make catastrophic mistakes.
And in speeches myself, I have said that at times we have acted too arrogantly. And I didn't feel that I was being apologetic for America, I just was saying, because the next -- I was just saying that that's the way we are in terms of being willing to recognize our own limitations, and when we make a mistake to correct it.
Because I think the next line that I always use is, no other country in the world is so self-critical, and is so willing to change course when we feel that we've strayed from our values, or when we feel like we've been too arrogant.
So, I think -- I have not seen it as an apology tour at all, but rather a change of tone, a more humble America. But everybody knows we still have the big stick.
That Gates would have be able to offer this kind of perspective is not a surprise, given his own apparent leadership temperament. In Zakaria’s words:
As you watch Gates, you will get a sense of why he does well. He
exudes a quiet confidence, but he's got his ego firmly in check. He's smart,
thoughtful, but focused. He's disciplined.
But, as you'll see in the interview, he's remarkably frank about the challenges he faces. In fact, in places I heard things I hadn't heard before.
So, political biases aside, it would appear that Secretary Gates “gets” humble leadership. Let’s hope there are many others like him throughout the Obama Administration.
I think it's fair to say that my personal Venn diagram and that of Justice Clarence Thomas do not overlap all that much.
Other than being African-American men and followers of Christ, there aren't many other attributes that we have in common, especially in terms of our political views.
So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself nodding in agreement at one of his recent statements. In a piece in the New York Times recently, describing a conversation Justice Thomas had with some high school students about his time on the court and his legal philosophies, he talked about his belief that the concept of rights of American citizenship had grown at the expense of the obligations associated with citizenship.
Here's the quote:
“Today there is much focus on our rights,” Justice Thomas said. “Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights.”
“I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances,” he said. “Shouldn’t there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?”
He gave examples: “It seems that many have come to think that each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living. They’re owed air-conditioning, cars, telephones, televisions.”
Those are luxuries, Justice Thomas said.
Of course, it's easy to take these statements to mean that Thomas is in favor of a restriction of rights...especially ones he and others don't agree with.
But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this. Because I, too, believe that many of us have been quick to wrap ourselves in our inalienable rights but get “alligator arms” when it’s time to shoulder the obligations that go with those rights.
When we talk about the right to free speech, bear arms, personal privacy and others, we don’t often associate them with the responsibility to exercise and defend those rights responsibly and in a manner than edifies our society. And when we don’t it smacks of entitlement.
I appreciate Justice Thomas’ willingness to put this idea forward. I would like to hope it spurs additional conversation at a time when all of us are rethinking what role we play as individual citizens in the repair and reinforcement of our social and economic fabric.
So, here's what we know:
For some reason, though, many people have a problem combining authenticity with optimism. Especially in the midst of challenges.
On the one hand, no one wants to be a pollyanna and pretend that things are OK when they clearly aren't.
Still, motivating and influencing those who are fearful, demoralized or just plain skeptical is virtually impossible.
An indication of "advanced leadership", then, is the ability to achieve that balance.
A favorite quote of mine is attributed to Napoleon: "Leaders are dealers in hope." It's a reminder that it one can be authentic while still hopeful. And those in one's charge will respond favorably.
I found this piece, written by James Robbins, because he made reference to the Napoleon quote. Mr. Robbins does a great job of describing the importance of dealing in both hope and transparency.
Here's the link to the article. Here's the full text:
Barak Obama, Sarah Palin, John McCain, and the economic meltdown seem to dominate the evening news. The water cooler talk has now focused on things like the bailout bill and will it work. Employees are wondering if there money is safe and even more pressing, is their job safe. In fact, I cannot think of a more nervous time for employees in the last 20 years. Fear is an incredibly debilitating emotion and it is only heightened by the media.
Whether or not the bank bailout
works is yet to be seen, but Napoleon Bonaparte has some advice for
leaders during times like these. Napoleon said, "Leaders are dealers in
In fact, leaders if they are doing a good job, have significant influence in the lives of their staff. These are good times to reassure your people that everything is going to be OK. Now you might be wondering how anyone can really say for sure that everything will be OK. With huge job losses in the manufacturing industry, and layoffs because of the credit crises, how can anyone reassure their staff of anything? Well, what you can do is reassure people that they are going to be OK regardless of what happens. Remember fear exaggerates over time, and one of a leader's jobs is to help people see past their fear.
Leaders need to help their people see their strengths and resources and remind them that whatever happens, they have the inner strengths and tools to adapt, adjust and succeed. As a leader right now, it is a good idea to find out how your staff is feeling about the current credit crises and Wall Street bailout. There is bound to be some apprehension among them, which definitely affects workplace morale and productivity. Even being able to talk about it during a meeting will help people unload some of their stress. It is in these times when true leaders seize the opportunities to instill hope, confidence and optimism.
During WWII when things seemed very dark for England, it was Winston Churchill, their leader that said these words...
"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender,"
Churchill was instrumental in rallying the emotional resolve of England during the war. This is what leaders do. They strengthen the resolve of their people. This is a good time to check the pulse of your employees and if any of them seem a bit deflated, take Napoleons advice and deal out a little hope.
James Robbins is an adventurer and leadership trainer helping organizations build workplaces of full engagement and low turnover. His keynotes and workshops inspire and equip managers to face today's leadership demands. To find out more go to http://www.ontothesummit.com
Building on this notion that transparency is a critical element of crisis leadership, allow me to share a story from my own history:
In the summer of 2006, I was working in the Corporate Communications department at Dell. Aside from the fact that PR/Corp Comm was not something for which I was formally trained, I enthusiastically accepted the role because I was looking forward to a new challenge and exercising my leadership skills.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into...
You might recall that in June of '06, there were a few isolated, but very high profile, cases where Dell notebooks using Sony batteries were overheating. In very rare occasions, they could even catch fire.
If you don't remember this situation, just google "dell notebook fire".
In the end, the company ended up recalling over 4.5 million batteries, well in excess of the number that were actually believed to be faulty. And to make sure the word got out about this recall, we went to the media in a big way, with a clear, urgent but reassuringly transparent message: "This situation is serious, albeit rare. However we have a plan and all we need you to do is exchange your batteries for new ones."
Then we went to great lengths to show people how to exchange their batteries, including setting up a special website, contacting corporate customers and arranging in-person battery exchanges, and generally making it as painless as possible to get a new battery.
What made this project "successful" from a communications and leadership perspective is that we never had any impulse to do anything other than communicate early and often about the risks and our intent to resolve this situation. I can tell you that from Michael Dell through his direct staff and to everyone on the team, the message was never "what will this cost?" or "how do we keep this quiet?"
To the contrary, the only time Mr. Dell became frustrated with the core team on this effort was when he believed we were moving too slowly in getting the batteries out of customers' hands.
For me that will always be a tangible reminder that, regardless of the dire nature of a crisis, the guiding principles of communication should be openness, candor and transparency.
Given the uncertainties in our world today, let's hope others in positions of leadership feel the same.
The concept of "transparency" has been very popular of late.
For me, the literal definition of transparent ("open; frank; candid; easily seen through, recognized, or detected") makes it clear why such a character trait would be desirable for a leader.
It is difficult to effectively wield authority if those under that authority aren't clear about the leader's objectives.
In many cases, the leader feels that he can only be effective by handling information on a "need to know" basis. If too much information gets out, then he might lose control of the message, the strategy could get sullied and, well, things will get all messed up.
The reality, though, is that moments of crisis are best handled with more, not less, information.
To begin to understand the power of so-called "radical transparency," take a look at this piece from Wired:
My intention is not to make this a "Watch The White House" blog. However, when something from the Office of the POTUS exemplifies - or contradicts - any of the old school values that we're celebrating, I'll highlight it.
This month we've explored the role humility plays in the repertoire of effective, old school leaders.
We've also contrasted humility with hubris, and clarified the balance between the two traits that gifted leaders need to achieve with care.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin has a great passage in his book Thou Shall Prosper regarding humility and how we embrace it while still acknowledging our evident God-given talents. He writes:
"Humility does not mean persuading yourself that you are a worthless good-for-nothing. There are many worthless good-for-nothings in the world, but you are not one of them....No, trying to persuade yourself that you are nothing at all would be to make of lie of all the many years of hard work during which you became who you are today.
Well, then, if you are really somebody rather impressive, how do you avoid becoming, well,...arrogant about it all?
By recognizing how little credit you really deserve for your triumphs and achievements.
You had the good fortune to be born and raised in a country that offered not only physical survival but also endless opportunity....You might have done fine in the genetic sweepstakes, and you might also have been the beneficiary of many helpful and generous people who gave you assistance along the way."
He goes on to encourage us to take time to "bow your head in recognition of all those who knowingly and unwittingly contributed to what you are and to what you are today."
I've found this to be a powerful exercise. To avoid believing my own hype, I simply need to remember how much my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, professors, and pastors have poured into me. In that context, it's impossible to think that I had all that much to do with whatever success I have enjoyed.
This practice is common with many effective leaders. Not only does it (usually) keep them from getting "the big head", but it also helps cultivate develop a comfort in their own skins.
In fact, this comfort is often manifested in these leaders as authenticity. For these men and women, WYSIWYG* is more than a technical acronym. It's how they lead and how they live.
We'll spend February exploring this virtue.
* What You See Is What You Get
At the beginning of
the year, I promised to bring the ideas and opinions of other thought leaders
to this space. Today, I’m glad to share a word from Robert Menafee, a friend
and brother of over 20 years. His own humility
would prevent him from sharing his educational pedigree (Stanford undergrad;
Chicago MBA). But what makes Rob so special is the interplay between his
intellectual horsepower and his pragmatic perspective on the world around
us. As if that
weren’t enough, he’s a jazz aficionado, a sports nut, and knows a thing or two
about fine wines…. Here are some of his
thoughts on humility: My favorite scene in the movie “The Firm” starring Tom
Cruise is between Cruise and a middle-aged black gentleman who is a client of
Bendini, Lambert & Locke. The client has a dispute regarding the
“overbilling” that Cruise’s firm consistently practices. He states “This
overbilling has become so common, no one gives it a second thought. It’s
kind of like tipping.” Such is the case with C-level compensation with far too
many U.S. corporations. And in my estimation, this phenomenon is
directly linked to a lack of humility, a void in servant leadership. Case in point: a few weeks ago my wife shared with me an
NPR interview with Robert Lutz, current head of product design at General
Motors. Under his leadership, GM has made major strides in styling
such that its cars and trucks generate real consumer enthusiasm. Near the end of the interview, the journalist asked about
how things may change given the federal government’s cash infusion. Lutz
responded that, at the personal level, he was having to learn to deal with
waiting in lines at airports and staying in more modest hotel accommodations. Well bust my buttons! What a novel concept –
running a business in the most cost-effective manner. Please let me make clear that I’m ALL for paying top
corporate executives long money, on the condition that they
deliver strong performance, not just in the company’s share price but also in accordance with other metrics such as Stern Stewart’s famous Economic Value Added (EVA). (I have
very strong Libertarian tendencies w/ a touch of populism.) Well before EVA was coined, there was its human personification,
Warren Buffett. Each one of the businesses that Berkshire Hathaway
owns, from Sees Candy to NetJets, has a highly-qualified management team that
not only possesses deep industry expertise but also knows how to rub two
nickels together. Why? Because while Buffett certainly wants
talent, he also insists that his managers are good stewards of
capital. After all it’s his capital at stake. Many who
sit on corporate boards are not living up to their fiduciary responsibility to
search for and find managers that operate as though the principle of good
stewardship is sacrosanct. And humility is central to the principle
of good stewardship. Such managers do exist but they very well may be difficult to
find because many of our corporate leaders, talented as they may be, feel they
are “entitled” to outsized compensation irrespective of company
performance. In recent days, John Thain, former CEO of Merrill Lynch, in
regard to spending $1.2 million on office renovation stated “It is clear to me
that in today’s world it was a mistake. I apologize for
spending … on those things.” Can you say “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than
permission?” The problem, which his words evince, is that this type
of spending is not appropriate under any circumstances. The CEO of a bulge-bracket Wall Street investment bank
probably should have a nicely appointed - but not opulent - office. At least not on
the company’s dime. Thank you Rob! Editor's Note: In an effort to end his PR self-immolation, Thain
recently appeared on CNBC with Maria Bartiromo. She asked him a very relevant
question: What was wrong with the office of his predecessor, Stanley
O’Neal? “Well — his office was very different — than — the — the general
décor of — Merrill’s offices,” Thain replied. “It really would have been — very
difficult — for — me to use it in the form that it was in.” Seriously?
At the beginning of the year, I promised to bring the ideas and opinions of other thought leaders to this space. Today, I’m glad to share a word from Robert Menafee, a friend and brother of over 20 years.
His own humility would prevent him from sharing his educational pedigree (Stanford undergrad; Chicago MBA). But what makes Rob so special is the interplay between his intellectual horsepower and his pragmatic perspective on the world around us.
As if that weren’t enough, he’s a jazz aficionado, a sports nut, and knows a thing or two about fine wines….
Here are some of his thoughts on humility:
My favorite scene in the movie “The Firm” starring Tom Cruise is between Cruise and a middle-aged black gentleman who is a client of Bendini, Lambert & Locke. The client has a dispute regarding the “overbilling” that Cruise’s firm consistently practices. He states “This overbilling has become so common, no one gives it a second thought. It’s kind of like tipping.”
Such is the case with C-level compensation with far too many U.S. corporations. And in my estimation, this phenomenon is directly linked to a lack of humility, a void in servant leadership.
Case in point: a few weeks ago my wife shared with me an NPR interview with Robert Lutz, current head of product design at General Motors. Under his leadership, GM has made major strides in styling such that its cars and trucks generate real consumer enthusiasm.
Near the end of the interview, the journalist asked about how things may change given the federal government’s cash infusion. Lutz responded that, at the personal level, he was having to learn to deal with waiting in lines at airports and staying in more modest hotel accommodations.
Well bust my buttons! What a novel concept – running a business in the most cost-effective manner.
Please let me make clear that I’m ALL for paying top corporate executives long money, on the condition that they deliver strong performance, not just in the company’s share price but also in accordance with other metrics such as Stern Stewart’s famous Economic Value Added (EVA).
(I have very strong Libertarian tendencies w/ a touch of populism.)
Well before EVA was coined, there was its human personification, Warren Buffett. Each one of the businesses that Berkshire Hathaway owns, from Sees Candy to NetJets, has a highly-qualified management team that not only possesses deep industry expertise but also knows how to rub two nickels together.
Why? Because while Buffett certainly wants talent, he also insists that his managers are good stewards of capital. After all it’s his capital at stake. Many who sit on corporate boards are not living up to their fiduciary responsibility to search for and find managers that operate as though the principle of good stewardship is sacrosanct.
And humility is central to the principle of good stewardship.
Such managers do exist but they very well may be difficult to find because many of our corporate leaders, talented as they may be, feel they are “entitled” to outsized compensation irrespective of company performance.
In recent days, John Thain, former CEO of Merrill Lynch, in regard to spending $1.2 million on office renovation stated “It is clear to me that in today’s world it was a mistake. I apologize for spending … on those things.”
Can you say “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission?” The problem, which his words evince, is that this type of spending is not appropriate under any circumstances.
The CEO of a bulge-bracket Wall Street investment bank probably should have a nicely appointed - but not opulent - office. At least not on the company’s dime.
Thank you Rob!
Editor's Note: In an effort to end his PR self-immolation, Thain recently appeared on CNBC with Maria Bartiromo. She asked him a very relevant question: What was wrong with the office of his predecessor, Stanley O’Neal?
“Well — his office was very different — than — the — the general décor of — Merrill’s offices,” Thain replied. “It really would have been — very difficult — for — me to use it in the form that it was in.”
As some of you longstanding readers know, I am a fan of some of Joseph Schumpeter's theories. He was an influential economist in the early 20th century who put forth a concept that a healthy growing organization must be willing to turn away from models and practices that enabled it to succeed in the past.
He referred to this phenomenon as “creative destruction”.
For many leaders, this ability to set aside processes and philosophies on which their reputations have been made is virtually impossible. Indeed, the standard practice is to develop a few “go-to moves” in one’s management playbook, and to keep relying on them over and over again.
It is refreshing, then, when we learn of a big thinking leader who goes against the grain and who achieves new levels of organizational success. One such leader is Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon.
Upon taking over the top job there, Ms. Jung was faced with significant strategic challenges. Instead of going with what would doubtlessly have been a more comfortable path, she decided to engage in some creative destruction.
She asked herself, "Can I be humble enough to destroy my own thinking of the last five years and re-create it as if I were a brand-new hire? The thing is, you're not new. You're taking out the same people you put in. Being able to reinvent yourself personally as a leader is just as important as reinventing the company and its strategy."
As a result, the company has since grown at double digit rates and is entering new markets. While she would probably have achieved a level of success without such a radical approach, it is hard to overlook the importance of her executive humility in the course of action she chose.
Still, it was so encouraging to hear him utter the word and embrace the virtue. Toss in a couple of mentions in Rev. Rick Warren's invocation, and it was a humility-fest!
Another pastor, Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, had a great analysis of the speech and the impact it's likely to have. Here are some excerpts:
“...American ‘manifest destiny’ will be replaced by a new relationship to the world, more characterized by ‘humility’ (he actually said the word) and leading by American example more than by American domination.
The opportunity that has always been the American promise must now be extended to all, including those at the bottom of the economy, said the new president, who also pledged that the poor of the world would not be abandoned anymore.
‘To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.’”
For me, these passages highlighted the most encouraging theme from the inauguration: that we Americans are at our best when we harness all of our gifts and talents. If we neglect the widows, the orphans, the disenfranchised, then we are burying our talents, to use a Biblical reference.
My hope and prayer is that President Obama sets the example for leaders everywhere by exhibiting humility, strength, pragmatism and hope in his modus operandi.
There is a temptation to add my own words to the millions already written, spoken, sung and shouted about the inauguration of President Obama.
But I will resist it.
It would also be easy to call attention to the convergence of events leading to the celebration of Dr. King's one day before what many believe is the manifestation of The Dream. (For the record, it's a huge step in the right direction, but, um....)
However, those comments are available on a bunch of other blogs out there.
Instead, I simply offer two "humility indicators" that I hope to see from President Obama and his team. If either of them come to fruition, then we may truly begin to see a rebirth in American humility.
1. Walk the talk on "post-partisanship"
One of the reasons why I have tended to avoid political discourse over the last 12 years or so is the nauseating prevalence of us-vs-them, take-no-prisoners partisanship.
One party's elected officials rant while their opposite numbers rave, they question their opponents' patriotism and generally rouse the rabble. And I have to turn to another channel.
It's as if these folks believe that their only jobs are to get elected, stay elected, and keep the other party in the minority. Bonus points if they can do it all as distastefully as possible.
This has to stop.
We've seen a much different approach from the Obama camp since the election, though. His willingness to hire, talk to, even dine with his political opponents has some Democratic die hards wringing their hands while others are apoplectic.
"He really meant all that stuff about unity...?"
Yeah, he really did.
Even in his acceptance speech on November 4, he said:
"[Self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity] are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress."
(He even slipped in the H-word!)
If President O. continues to operate with the guiding principle that good ideas and effective policy strategies can come from anywhere on the political continuum, it would be so refreshing and fun to watch.
Moreover, it would reinforce the fact that it takes tremendous strength, humility and self-awareness to embrace one's opponents. Hopefully others would follow suit.
2. Take Diplomacy Out For A Spin
Somewhere in the last eight years, it became our policy to refuse to talk to anyone on the international stage who wasn't sufficiently "on our side". Whatever that means.
I'm not an expert in international affairs (though I did attend two lectures given by Dr. Condoleezza Rice while in college), but I do know something about relationships.
In my experience, nothing fosters a dysfunctional relationship more than cutting off communication. Frankly, even if the communication takes the form of yelling at each other, it's more productive than the silent treatment.
Yet, an alarming segment of the world community has been effectively told to "talk to the hand", which means that our geopolitical toolkit is pretty sparse.
I would love to see a diplomatic awakening on the part of the US State Department before the end of this month. Any country with which we have little or no diplomatic contact would be targeted for a meaningful dialog with the appropriate staffer from State.
By using the "Hi, I'm new here. Can we start over...?" approach, past slights would be easier to forgive and the humble, open and pragmatic posture could make progress possible.
Some, like Iran and Syria, might take a bit more strategic planning. But why not seize the moral high ground with those as well by being the first to reach out and flex our atrophied muscles of diplomacy? Could it possibly make our global profile any worse than it is right now?
In the end, I am incredibly optimistic that the crises in which we find ourselves mired will not be wasted. New solutions to intractable challenges will be more attractive now because few of the traditional options are working.
The levers of political, economic and social stability are seizing up, frozen in place due to overuse and misapplication. Only by swallowing our pride, humbling ourselves and being willing to look for new answers will we ever achieve the national greatness that we believe to be our birthright.
I almost don't even want to offer any commentary on this article from USAT. It's such an encouraging, heartwarming, yet convicting story of generosity, perspective and humility.
Read and reflect:
He points out the disconnect that often exists between the talent that a person possesses and that person's own perception of that talent.
For better or worse, one's earning power is often equated with one's perceived talent, which in an of itself is a joke.
What's more galling, though, is when folks actually believe their own hype because of their financial good fortune. I've worked with people who were at the right company at the right time, and as a result they have received significant rewards.
They believe, though, that they are the second coming of Henry Ford and deserved these outsized payouts!
Seth says, "My favorite combination is the quiet confidence of knowledge, combined with the humility that comes from realizing that you're pretty lucky and that you have no idea at all what's guaranteed to work tomorrow."
This week the New York Times published a great piece on the Pittsburgh Steelers and their defensive coordinator, Dick Lebeau.
An outstanding NFL player in in his own right, Mr. Lebeau is widely respected by his players and his coaching peers for his creativity, his respect for the integrity of the game, and his role as innovator in the league.
What caught my eye, though, were the comments about his temperament ("Soft-spoken, he shifts his voice to a baritone growl for practices and games. LeBeau never yells or flies off the handle. Almost never.") his focus on his players' well-being ("Always smiling. Always glad to see you. Always interested in you. Always asks after your family. Never in a hurry. If Dick LeBeau has detractors, no one seems to know who they are.") and the devotion he has insipred from his players ("Asked if he has ever seen anyone disrespect LeBeau, Smith said: 'I don’t think anybody would be crazy enough to do that. We’d take care of them. I don’t think they would make it out alive.'”)
Without knowing this man personally, it sounds like he is cut from the Wooden/Walsh/Dungy cloth, all coaches who found ways to be successful without demeaning their charges. Who taught more than they ordered. They are men for whom their own reputations are of less value than the growth and effectiveness of their teams.
How cool (and rare) is this:
LeBeau said: “If I make a bad call, I’m not going to stand up in front of them on Monday and say, ‘You guys messed up that play.’ I’m going to say: ‘That was really a lousy call. I had a reason for doing it, but guess what? I was wrong.’ ”
Another resonating comment:
“Great defense is more than just great players,” [Steelers Head Coach Mike] Tomlin said. “It’s guys understanding how what they do fits in the big picture. It’s guys making personal sacrifice for the betterment of the group, spilling and taking on blocks, doing things that are against human nature.”
Hmm. Personal sacrifice for the sake of the group? Doing things that are against human nature?
Odd as it may sound, many effective leaders see their primary role being that of facilitator for the folks on their teams. They eliminate barriers, broker resolutions to conflicts and generally try to set their team members up for success.
“What can I do to help you succeed?” was a question I was once asked by one of my favorite bosses. I was actually shocked and taken aback by the question. I didn’t have a good answer or request at the time, but I’ve used this same question with people on my own teams since.
That approach, to me, is the embodiment of "servant leadership".
Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges wrote an excellent book on this topic years ago, and it’s one that I’ve used as a tool in my own development as a leader.
I won’t try to do justice to all of the wisdom these gentlemen share. However, as we explore humility as a leadership trait, there is an excerpt that I thought would add to the dialog.
They wrote: “As you consider the heart issues of leadership, a primary question you will continue to have to ask yourself is: ‘Am I a servant leader or a self-serving leader?’ It is a question that, when answered with brutal honesty, will go to the core of your intention or motivation as a leader.
“One of the quickest ways you can tell the difference between a servant leader and a self-serving leader is how they handle feedback, because one of the biggest fears that self-serving leaders have is to lose their position.” [Blanchard and Hodges, p. 17]
Obviously, all leaders will get feedback whether they want it or not. The point that Blanchard and Hodges make so well, though, is that the self-oriented leader, lacking humility, interprets feedback as an indication “that you don’t want their leadership anymore.
“Servant leaders, however, look at leadership as an act of service. They embrace and welcome feedback as a source of useful information on how they can provide better service.” [Blanchard and Hodges, p. 17-18]
This orientation toward others – leaders setting their team members up for success by serving them – is fundamentally a posture of humility.
Humility As A Universal Virtue
is the solid foundation of all virtues.
that low, sweet root, From which all heavenly virtues shoot.
is the base of every virtue, And he who goes the lowest builds the safest.
Philip James Bailey
peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility.
be very sure That no man will learn anything at all, Unless he first will learn
beloved of the Almighty are: the rich who have the humility of the poor, and
the poor who have the magnanimity of the rich.
of people wish to become devout, but no one wishes to be humble.
François Duc de La Rochefoucauld
modest! It is the kind of pride least likely to offend.
we become aware of our humility, we've lost it.
Humility In Leadership
the throne itself must be the footstool of humility.
leads to strength and not to weakness. It is the highest form of self-respect
to admit mistakes and to make amends for them.
John (Jay) McCloy
higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem. -
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.
is to make a right estimate of one's self. It is no humility for a man to think
less of himself than he ought, though it might rather puzzle him to do that.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
is a shining light; it prepares the mind to receive knowledge, and the heart
acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and
give you an opportunity to commit more.
The Humility Paradox
am no more humble than my talents require.
I only had a little humility, I'd be perfect.
be so humble--you are not that great.
have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty... But I am too busy thinking