Archive for December, 2006|Monthly archive page

Happiness as a Leadership Tool

It’s that time of year – Happy Holidays, Happy New Year. Happy Happy all around!  In this vein, I recently  discovered Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. It’s filled with helpful hints and quotes like the following:
“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” Robert Louis Stevenson

That makes me realize how important happiness is as a tangible and renewable resource. It’s more than a casual wish bandied about or a reminder tossed over your shoulder as you rush out the door. Leaders who understand this will make sure to encourage others to fulfill their happiness needs.

Many of us raised with the old Puritanical style work ethic might have trouble accepting this concept. No one promised happiness. That was an after-reward for completing your chores or achieved by excelling beyond expectations.  Even the above quote from Stevenson claims happiness is a duty – underrated, but still a duty or obligation to be fulfilled.

Fast forward to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (some may recall from psych or marketing 101) where different levels of achievement, from basic survival all the way up to self-actualization bring differing levels of satisfaction. A leader can’t guarantee everyone will climb that ladder or reach the top of the pyramid. But, they can help to set the stage for happiness.

 Author and historian, James  MacGregor Burns goes into detail about this sort of evolution of happiness in society and leadership in his book Transforming  Leadership: The Pursuit of Happiness. I recently found this review on LeaderShop. Definitely putting it on my reading list.

In the meantime – Be Happy! It’s our duty, our responsibility and our need.

A Glimpse of What I learned in 2006

What did you learn  in 2006?  The Instigator wants to know.

Well, starting right here, I can say I learned I am behind the curve when it comes to blogging. There were already almost 60 million blogs out there when I joined the club this month. And, they say blogging will reach its peak in 2007. But, I still come across a lot of people in everyday life who aren’t even sure what a blog is. I think there’s plenty of room for growth. A new electronic acquaintance, Starbucker shares some good insight on the value of blogging. 

I learned that as much as I know from raising two sons, earning a masters degree, being a business leader and a voracious reader; there’s so much more that I don’t know. But, this is the age of instant communication. There’s updated information available and people at the ready to help me with just about any question 24/7 (in-person and/or on-line). I love it!

In an ongoing lesson, I learned that I need to stop for a little fun, just for the fun of it, once in a while. So, in its fifth season, I finally found out what all the hype was about and discovered American Idol. With only a slight blush, I admit that I took notice of one certain performer and became fully involved with that karaoke-type talent show that has captured the attention of millions. Yep, eighth place finalist, Bucky Covington all but enthralled me with his southern country rock and gentle manner. I even voted for him, and continue to follow his emerging career. Finalist Taylor Hicks and sweet Kellie Pickler are fun too. Who knew?!? 

I also learned the importance of networking in building relationships – no agenda, no expectations. Yes, it calls for some discretion, whether in real life activities or virtual forums.  I have to admit that my marketing background, at first, got in the way of networking  just for the sake of meeting and greeting, with no ulterior motive.  A good marketer has a plan, a strategy and certain goals in mind when they set out to make connections. Now the evolving world of social media (which I’m still learning) calls for much broader parameters – allowing for a certain randomness and personal inclination in building a network.  I like it!

That’s why I ‘m sharing this little bit with someone in Canada (and his whole network) that I would never have known about or dreamed of approaching in the past.

She’s a Leader? He’s a Leader? Rosie vs. Donald

Oh my! There’s no question that Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump are accomplished leaders. I don’t think I have to list their endeavors, but suffice to say they each have given a lot of their time, drive and money in efforts that have benefited society. Both are known for being somewhat bold and maybe even brazen, which can be positive traits in leadership. But, now they have engaged in a public outburst of insults and innuendos about each other that greatly detracts from their leadership status.

Rosie seemed to think it necessary to “call out” The Donald when he forgave the current Miss USA her public indiscretions. To paraphrase, Rosie said who is Donald to think he is a moral compass. She also suggested that the fact that he inherited his initial wealth made his accomplishments less worthy. And, she likened him to a snake-oil salesman in Little House on The Prarie. Very strong stuff there, no matter what you think of Donald Trump!

 In turn, Donald said that Rosie is a loser, very unattractive and talks like a truck driver. He seemed to gloat over the fact that she had experienced failure with her magazine. And, he said if he were running The View , he’d fire Rosie. Or, in other words, “NaNa  NaNa  Na!”

Is this an appropriate manner for two leading public figures to conduct themselves? I think not.  Rosie might have some merit in some of her comments. But, I think she took them too far and became overly involved personally. Understandably, Donald wanted to defend himself, but again he too went overboard.

A good leader admonishes another with respect and grace. Barbara Walters, who confesses to being an old friend to Trump and employer of O’Donnell is perhaps the only one exercising true leadership in this whole disturbance. In an official announcement Walters displayed diplomacy in asking for “calm and peace”. Perhaps she can instruct them to attend charm school, and then to work together on a community leadership project. Now, that would make for some good viewing!

Good Leaders Aren’t Know-It-Alls

As a child, I loved to read the encyclopedia. As an adult, I often defer to my favorite electronic version, Wikipedia. There, the term “know-it-all” is actually listed as an apt reference for that very source.  It also lists the fictional character,  Alex Keaton from Family Ties as an example. So, unless you’re a walking encyclopedia, you’re probably not a know-it-all.

Smart leaders realize this and depend on others to help them find information and the means to implement their ideas. That’s one reason that good managers are important. Managers know how to organize and direct the operation of those ideas. (This doesn’t mean that managers can’t be leaders, too – but that’s another post.)

Once a leader focuses on a new direction, they need to find the best way to accomplish their goals. From there it takes a combination of luck, talent and hard work by all who are involved for any project to be successful.  

Success, of course is defined on many levels.  I recently found Thom Singer’s Blog, Some Assembly Required where he profiles a variety of successful leaders in his Praise Others Project . There’s good content there on well-knowns like Stephen Covey and soon-to-be-knowns like Jason Alba, founder of networking site, Jibber Jobber. I was especially excited to see the profile of one of my favorite thought leaders, Malcolm Gladwell of Tipping Point fame.  

Thankfully,  there’s always someone (or somewhere) else  I can turn to for more information in my pursuit of becoming a better leader.  And, although I won’t often publicize it, I can freely admit that I don’t know it all.

Bells Will Be Ringing

71740947_1a68e3d637_m1.jpgBlogging bells, that is, as I  get a little braver each post in applying some of the tricks of the electronic conversation trade. There are more than 50 million Blogs on the Web now. Not sure if that counts just the active ones or  everyone that’s out there  – many languishing somewhere in cyberspace. It’s easier than ever to start a Blog, but to grow one, see it join the mainstream and to prosper in the world of instant info – that’s where the real work comes in. Same can be said of any new project or relationship. It takes some leadership to get the bells ringing.

I am a good writer, fairly comfortable with various computer programs and know my way around the Internet. I’ve taught a couple of on-line classes, mastered email and even done some graphic design. But, in the world of social networking and blogging, I admit to being a bit of a neophyte. So over the past couple of weeks I have been traveling around the blogosphere, picking up some new jargon, seeking appropriate leadership and gathering my courage to join in the fun! 

Luckily, there are a lot of experienced and successful bloggers out there. Finding electronic buddies and professional bloggers willing to share their knowledge is easier than you might think. But, there are three in particular that have struck my fancy. When I first visited Liz Strauss’ Successful Blog, I admit I felt a little overwhelmed. But each time I went back, I found something else that intrigued me, and something else that made more sense to me. I think anyone, new or not, will find most of the extensive listings she so generously shares on her New Blogger Page very helpful! Darren Rowse of Problogger has 20 blogs and makes a six-figure income from the whole shebang (who knew it could be so profitable?!?!?). His Blogging for Beginners is another valuable source that leads the way for novice bloggers like me.  Jason Alba, who runs an innovative career site at JibberJobber (love that name!) doesn’t have as much experience as the others (at least in blogging) but his blog just rang a bell with me the moment I found it. Jason’s posts, like this one, Substantiate Yourself almost always spark something for me.

I just realized, I kind of did a mini Blog Tipping thing here, if I understand that term correctly. Anyway, I’m excited to be a part of ringing the blogging bells – even though at this stage mine are probably more like jingle bells than those colorful chimers posted!

Paris and Nicole Go to Leadership Camp

So far, I’ve established my credibility and shared some general leadership thought and information. Now, I’m going to veer from an academic and business tone, and jump into some pop culture.

Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie have been out there, leading the way of all the twenty-something wannabe party-going, fashionista, brazen and bold young women. But, where oh where are they going? Can’t say that I’ve followed their careers closely, but one can’t help but know what’s been going on with them lately. One or the other of them is usually in the news, and it’s often not positive press.

Paris was in some sort of alleged physical altercation with another beauty queen type, as well as being arrested for drunken driving in September. Yesterday, Nicole matched her buddy with her own DUI  after someone reported that she was driving the wrong way on the freeway – yih! Now, I mean no disrespect to either Paris or Nicole. I even confess to having watched a few episodes of their reality show, “The Simple Life”. But, by virtue of their backgrounds and personal choices, they have become public personas. That’s the problem. Once any of us are out in front of an audience, however small or large; be it work-related, family-oriented or the social arena – we’d better pay attention to where we’re going, and how we conduct ourselves along the way. Yes, most of us (myself included) will make some mistakes as we proceed.

Thankfully, leadership is not a closed system. It is open to all who are willing to participate. Redemption plays a  vital role in how we strengthen and grow our leadership skills. So, how about, if instead of doing another goofy “Simple Life” show, Paris and Nicole team together to do a series called “Leadership Camp”? They could show how they learn to apply that winning creativity, charm and humor to making the right decisions and becoming leaders in the best sense. Instead of making off with the Sheriff’s car like they did in their old show, they could participate in volunteering to deliver meals to shut-ins. I’m not a Hollywood script writer, but I bet they could come up with ways for Paris and Nicole to be just as clever and funny in a format where they strive to adopt some new behaviors, and become positive role models – maybe even leaders.

Will You Get a Holiday Bonus?

If you’re one of the growing number of independent consultants and small business owners, you’ll decide on your own terms what you deserve (and can afford) for a holiday bonus. More than likely it will be a day-off or maybe some new technology to assist you in your business growth.

If you’re a member of the corporate world or an employee at a small business, you’ll have no say in what you get for (or even if you get) a holiday bonus. This recent article by Marilyn Gardner in the Christian Science Monitor explores all sides of the subject. She shows the inconsistencies that are often applied to the whole process, and suggests that many companies are eliminating holiday bonuses completely.

Should holiday bonuses be performance-based, proportionate to longevity with the company, or considered at all? If they’re considered should the bonus come in the form of cash, gift cards or products? Should holiday bonuses be handled by the Santa Claus principle on whether you’ve been naughty or nice? Or on the shopping-happy theory where one size fits all?

This is the time of year that many employees are disappointed no matter what the business leaders decide on the subject. If Susie Secretary finds out that Tom Techie got more of a monetary bonus than she, even though she’s been employed there 10 years longer, she is upset. Susie won’t necessarily stop to think that Tom’s new super-duper security encoded program that he worked on for umpteen hours brought the company thousands in increased revenue this last quarter. When Doorman Dan, who lives alone in a rented room gets a  20# turkey, he probably wishes they had given him a gift card for dinner instead.

Some businesses choose to donate to community funds or Santa drives as a way to avoid the whole issue of how much or what to give to employees. The gift is given in honor of all employees, but often without employee input. Company holiday parties are sometimes held in place of giving individual bonuses.  

Good leaders will spend some time making the right decision on holiday bonuses. What worked (either financially or socially) last year may not work this year. Smart employees learn not to automatically expect a holiday bonus, but to pay attention to their organization’s seasonal attitudes. It can be reflective of the company’s year-round tone. Responsible leaders need to recognize employees often, and the holiday season is a good time to spend some time  doing that – whether it’s through words of appreciation or a fat envelope filled with green.

SPA – Part II

If you’re like me, you don’t always have the time to go back and study the Classics or even to read modern literature without interruption. That’s pretty much the way of things today. That’s why the Internet and Blogs in particular are so popular these days – with instant access to information. Of course, like anything else one has to be discerning in the places they go and in checking the quality of the info they gather, but that’s another topic.

Here are my suggestions on some of the current must-reads of Leadership philosophy and behavior. This list is not meant to be inclusive, but it is well-tested. Some of these are short and to the point, some are longer and theoretical.  Any of them will serve to inspire and refresh one’s thoughts on Leadership  – in the workplace, at home and in the community.

In random order some of the modern books that have influenced and tweaked my LivingLeadership:

The Leader’s Companion:Insights on Leadership Through The Ages
by J. Thomas Wren

The One Minute Manager
by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
by John C. Maxwell

Living The 7 Habits
by Stephen R. Covey

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference
by Malcolm Gladwell

Leading Change
by John Kotter

SPA

Ahh, yes  Spas have become all the rage. They offer all types of massage and new-age rituals to restore ones health and vitality. At least that’s how I understand it. I’ve never actually been to a Spa, although I would like to visit one  some day. I’m sure my body would appreciate it!

I have been to  SPA, however –  a place that is mind-soothing and energizing at the same time. Anyone who engages in researching and analyzing leadership theory and organizational behavior, or just pauses to reflect on their own course through life has been there. Yes, it was SPA who laid down the groundwork of  renewable resources for the ongoing development of thought and theory.

Don’t worry, I won’t attempt to give a lecture on the philosophies that society inherited from these three original thoughtmasters Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.  But, here’s a brief review or lesson if you skipped out on Philosophy 101. Socrates gave us the Socratic Method which is the basis of  legal argument. He also questioned authority and stressed the importance of ethics. Plato, Socrates’ student was a bit of a socialist and into metaphysics. He wrote The Republic. I can’t profess to having read this whole lengthy tome, but I found this handy modern means that might help me eventually accomplish that. (if only I had an iPod!) Plato also founded The Academy, which is considered the first formal University.  Aristotle, last in the line of this Greek trilogy and Plato’s student is known as the father of logic and reason. He established the empirical system as a means of rational inquiry to form a logical conclusion. (This is one of the best leadership decision-making tools!)

You don’t have to go back to ancient Greek times to indulge in your own SPA. Most of us practice these philosophies and thought structures in our daily lives in one way or another. To me, this is a great example of LivingLeadership – the application and evolution of knowledge. Next post, I’ll share some of my modern-day SPA inspirations.

  

He’s a Leader, She’s a Leader

Everyone has the potential to be a leader. Leadership is not something innate. It can be learned and applied in varying degrees at various levels of performance.

Although, some would suggest that environmental factors, like birth order tend to affect our leadership development.  If you’re the oldest child chances are you’re put into leadership situations – like it or not, and eventually learn to take on the role of a leader. Also, gender plays a significant part in leadership. Men are still more apt than women to either be cast in or assume the role of a leader. Despite the impact of equal rights and other movements, historically speaking men have the leadership advantage.

Well, as the youngest female child of four siblings, I can personally attest that these developmental stereotypes are changing – slowly, but surely. Participation in team sports and organizations like the Girl Scouts of America gave me a basis for understanding leadership. I also benefited from my parents’ strong sense of community responsibility and their example in stepping up to be servant leaders. But, I had to learn to lead. It did not come naturally. Nor did society offer me an easy entry.

It wasn’t until I was thrust into the role of a single mother of two teenage sons that I really learned what it meant to be a leader. Then, I learned through trial and error, shared experiences, career opportunities and finally education how to be a leader. Along the way I made some mistakes, learned some more and I continue to evolve my leadership role –  in my family, professional and community sense.

I’ll share my experiences, insights and reflections with an objectivity gained from my professional development and a subjectivity biased by my personal lessons. You may not find the final word on Leadership here, but I promise you’ll always find an honest and educated perspective mixed with an occasional dose of heartfelt sentiment.