Tag Archives: innovation

3 Truths for Emerging Leaders

I've seen a lot of potential leaders, and I've seen many of them derail over commonly held myths. Here's some truths I want emerging leaders to know.

  1. Leadership is about behavior, not title. Just because you have a bright shiny new title doesn't mean people will automatically follow you. In the same vein, don't wait for the title to lead. Leadership is about influence, and ultimately it is your behavior that will be the deciding factor for those who chose whether or not to follow you.
  2. You are going to screw up. And when you do, your team will be watching carefully to see how you handle it. Set the right tone by admitting your error. Talk about the lessons learned. Apologize if appropriate. While you may be concerned that these responses show weakness, they actually prove one's grace and grit - and will go a long way to building trust and loyalty.
  3. Leading and managing are two different functions. Managers rely on systems and rules. Leaders create a culture of accountability. Managers maintain. Leaders innovate. Managers rely on control. Leaders inspire trust. Managers give orders. Leaders steward ideas.

4G Leadership: Gravitas – Not Just A $5 Word



Mark Twain memorably said, "Don't use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do."  He makes an excellent point. But in the case of gravitas there simply is no other word that encapsulates this multi-faceted leadership trait.

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3 2016 Leadership Books You Should Put On Your “To Be Read” List


You've made it through the Mother of All Mondays and 2016 is underway. There are new ideas coming down the pike and here are 3 to keep an eye out for. Find original ways to champion creativity, communicate effectively and memorably, and tackle challenges with forceful persistence.

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Leadership and Management: Finding the Balance


A question that is often asked is, what is the difference between a manager and a leader? Both are important, complementary roles in any organization that wishes to be successful and forward-thinking. While there are as many answers as there are questioners, here are some common denominators that most experts agree on.
Leaders keep the organization moving in the forward-thinking phase. They develop new approaches aimed at continuously improving a product or a service and focus on the “why.”

Much like the conductor of an orchestra, a leader sets the tempo and tone for the rest of the group and allows the virtuosos to flourish. A successful leader will cast a vision and inspire others to follow because of the trust they have placed in the leader. Leaders understand the high value of trust and never betray this.

Leadership behaviors include:

  • challenging the status quo; being comfortable taking risks
  • foster collaboration, and strengthen others
  • set examples, act consistently
  • focus on possibilities and not obstacles
  • have a clear-eyed conscience
  • be willing to fail and learn from it

Managers handle the important day-to-day business, coordinating and balancing opposing views and working through obstacles. They maintain what has been established and keep control of processes and the bottom line.
Managers develop virtuosos for the conductor to lead. In order to provide developmental opportunities, managers must take the time to understand their colleagues - what motivates them, and what is important to them.

Management behaviors include:

  • goal setting
  • planning work
  • defining roles
  • measuring progress
  • developing supportive relationships
  • listening, encouraging, praising, coaching
  • directing and facilitating progress

Finding the Balance
It’s not unusual for a strong leader to be a weak manager. Typically strong leaders are charismatic, creative, and innovative. They also tend to operate on the brink of chaos and have a hard time accomplishing anything.

Conversely, strong managers who are weak leaders have an impressive record of success, but have a very difficult time adapting to change or embracing innovation.

No organization can fully function without both skill sets. This is the secret to the success of organizations like Pixar, who have grand visions about the film they are creating, and sweat every detail along the way. Whether you are a manager or a leader, your goals are ultimately the same; it's the method of getting there that differs. When all is said and done, it's about creating a team that has the right balance between the two so the necessary tasks are completed beyond expectations in an environment that embraces dynamic, forward-thinking.


Shoot the Moon

shoot the moon

Life is not about maintaining the status quo.  Life is not about playing it safe every second.  Life is not about standing still and wallowing in self-doubt.  It’s about connecting with your soul, respecting your integrity, and telling yourself that you’re able.  It’s about taking a few steps, regardless of how hard and small they may be, so you can move forward and evolve.

To quote my favorite author, Anne Lamott:

"Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon."

What are you waiting for? Go shoot the moon.

My Favorite Lesson from Don Draper

Photo credit: AMC

Photo credit: AMC

By now, the recaps will have been published, the debates over the ending begun, and the glowing post-mortems of the groundbreaking television series Mad Men written. There is much to be gleaned from one of the greatest television dramas in recent years. From an HR perspective -  the need for Title VII legislation. From an entrepreneurial perspective - the scrappy never-say-die attitude of the gang from Sterling Cooper (and its many incarnations over the decade.) From a parenting perspective - the cautionary tale that is Betty Draper Francis.

My ode lies in its creative roots. Watching the creative process - with all its false starts, bad drafts, and constant fear that your last good idea was your last good idea - was an edifying experience.

In a bout of utter frustration, Don Draper's protege Peggy Olson once demanded, "show me how you do it. Show me how you think." To which he replied,

"First I abuse the people whose help I need. Then I take a nap. Then I start at the beginning again, and see if I end up in the same place."

In other words, think as hard as you can about your problem, then forget about it and let your subconscious do the work. That's where the "shower moments" come from. That's why you need a piece of paper on your nightstand at 3am. The answer is in there. Let your entire brain pitch in and do the work.

Open a New Window

mame-broadway-poster-1966I am a firm believer that everything you need to know about life can be found in musical theatre. So, every once in a while I'll blog about a particular truism I've gleaned from the orchestra pit.

When I was growing up, my mother had a best friend named Barbara. Barbara was a part of my life from the time I was six until her death earlier this week. She was a rare female executive for "Ma Bell" before the days of  anti-trust suits (or women's suits at Brooks Brothers, for that matter.) She remained single and childless her entire life, but she helped raise at least one kid who loved her like a mother.

I remember our first meeting as if it were yesterday. We were sitting in our living room on Long Island and she was wearing an exotic (in my six-year-old terms) necklace from a far off land called Barbados.

I was hooked.

Poor Barbara. I couldn’t get enough of her. I wanted to know what Greece was like. Were there really camels in Egypt? And really, how cool was she... driving that little VW Bug. Imagine this poor woman’s surprise when I announced one Friday night that I wanted to have a sleepover at Aunt Barbara’s. I’m not sure who was more terrified, my mother or Barbara. I’m sure a plan was in place to return me to my rightful owner at the first sign of a freak-out.

But, in what would become a pattern during our shared life, she called my bluff.

We had a magical night at Spinning Wheel Road. We watched the Brady Bunch (I hadn’t yet learned to recognize her patented “this is ridiculous” look.) And then a life-changing thing happened. She put on a record (vinyl, 33 1/3) and we listened to the soundtrack of “Mame.” Mame is the story of a single woman living in Depression-era New York who suddenly becomes the guardian of her young nephew. Unburdened with the worries of parenthood, she shares her own special brand of philosophy with her young charge. It was a fitting selection.

Open a new window, open a new door.

 We sang. We danced.

Though it may not be anyone's birthday,
And though it's far from the first of the year,
I know that this very minute has history in it, we're here!

Indeed. We were there. And from that moment on Barbara became my Auntie Mame.

Despite her serious nature, she had a wicked sense of humor. How many 10-year-old Catholic girls knew all the words to Tom Lerher’s Vatican Rag”? Of course, I had to take an inviolate oath to never demonstrate that particular skill to Sister Teresa.

Oh, how we laughed.

Years went on and I became an emotion-driven teenager with moods on a pendulum. My Auntie Mame would have none of that. My fits of angst were met with, “don’t go away mad, just go away.” And the unspoken understanding, “I’ll be here when you regain your senses.”

At a time when female executives were unheard of, I listened… okay eavesdropped… on my mother and Barbara as they discussed the goings-on at Mother Bell. She would have scoffed at the word mentor, but professionally, that is exactly what she was. When my time came to be a 20-something leader I had to fire someone for stealing. I was distraught. I was putting a man with two small children out of work. She looked me dead in the eye and said, ”you’re not putting him out of work. He did that all by himself.”

Okay, then.

From Barbara I learned that the wisest voice is not always the loudest voice.

I learned to stare down things that frighten me and take them apart piece by piece.

I learned determination, pragmatism, and loyalty.

I learned to open a new window.

Barbara, know that you taught your protégé well. I’m opening new windows and  I’m giving kids a living room to dance in. I hope I am providing some words of wisdom along the way. But you’ll be happy to know, we’re skipping the Brady Bunch.

Thank you, Auntie Mame.


Try Something New

the future

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?
You might find new confidence, you might find a latent talent.

You might find a fresh perspective, you might find a new appreciation for yourself.
You could stay safely tucked into your routine - or your could surprise yourself. We're not here to go through the motions. Engage.
Try it. Learn it. Read it. Experience it.

Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

Where do good ideas come from?

Steven Johnson says, "chance favors the connected mind." Forget the romantic notion of Archimedes shouting "Eureka!" Instead, good ideas are really a collection of slow hunches - and the breakthrough generally happens when combined with another hunch in someone else's mind.

Innovative organizations create systems that allows the "half-hunches" to come together - and turn into something bigger. It is not unlike the "3rd space" - whether its the Milan coffeehouses of the Enlightenment, the Parisian salons of Modernism, or the Starbucks down the street. Neither work nor home,  these "3rd spaces" provide a place where hunches can mingle, swap, and quite possibly take on new forms. And it's why "siloing" is so dangerous to the innovative spirit.

Want to hear more about good ideas?