Tuesday, December 25, 2007

All is Calm - an Important Element of Quiet Leadership

Today is Christmas Day and amongst the festivities, song, eating, and conversation, the phrase "All is Calm" as heard in the Christmas classic "Silent Night" came to mind and took special meaning as I awoke this morning.

Calmness is an essential element of quiet leadership. No words validate the importance of calm better or more beautifully than the words of James Allen in his 1902 classic As a Man Thinketh. Please enjoy.

CALMNESS of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control. Its presence is an indication of ripened experience, and of a more than ordinary knowledge of the laws and operations of thought.

A man becomes calm in the measure that he understands himself as a thought evolved being, for such knowledge necessitates the understanding of others as the result of thought, and as he develops a right understanding, and sees more and more clearly the internal relations of things by the action of cause and effect he ceases to fuss and fume and worry and grieve, and remains poised, steadfast, serene.

The calm man, having learned how to govern himself, knows how to adapt himself to others; and they, in turn, reverence his spiritual strength, and feel that they can learn of him and rely upon him. The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Even the ordinary trader will find his business prosperity increase as he develops a greater self-control and equanimity, for people will always prefer to deal with a man whose demeanour is strongly equable.

The strong, calm man is always loved and revered. He is like a shade-giving tree in a thirsty land, or a sheltering rock in a storm. "Who does not love a tranquil heart, a sweet-tempered, balanced life? It does not matter whether it rains or shines, or what changes come to those possessing these blessings, for they are always sweet, serene, and calm. That exquisite poise of character, which we call serenity is the last lesson of culture, the fruitage of the soul. It is precious as wisdom, more to be desired than gold--yea, than even fine gold. How insignificant mere money seeking looks in comparison with a serene life--a life that dwells in the ocean of Truth, beneath the waves, beyond the reach of tempests, in the Eternal Calm!

The full text of As a Man Thinketh can be read or downloaded from the Gutenberg Project. It's classic text is timeless. My only recommendation is to look beyond the male gender specificity of the words or optionally consider As A Woman Thinketh

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Merry Christmas,

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Building Community - Trust Begets Trust

I am very fond of any catch phrase that allows me to easily remember or convey a principle. I apply catch phrases in technology, leadership, or even home life. Here are some of my favorites in my technology space, i.e., business intelligence and data warehousing:
  • Touch a table, take a table.
  • Nulls are evil.
  • Let the ETL do the heavy lifting.
At home, there is a separate set of catch phrases that I use with my teenagers. For example:
  • Make good decisions
  • Learn a lot
  • No Bs, No Keys
These catch phrases are great because once they are explained and used, they serve as easy reminders and statements of guiding principles for a team or a family. You gotta love a great catch phrase.

In my leadership vernacular, one of my favorite catch phrases comes from Tom Peters, "It begets it". I've referenced it before and I have usually applied this phrase to smiles and thanks, as in, Smiles begets smiles. This refers to the notion that as a leader, if you smile, your team members will smile back.

I was studying the The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner looking for new insight on building community and fostering collaboration across teams and was ecstatic when I found the perfect catch phrase focusing on trust, "Trust begets trust."

The research of Kouzes and Posner exalts the role of trust as a foundation for leadership and collaboration. In speaking of trust they convey,

It's the central issue in human relationship within and outside organizations. Without trust you cannot lead. Without trust you cannot get extraordinary thinks done. Individuals who are unable to trust others fail to become leaders.

The work of Kouzes and Posner clearly suggests that trust is a two way street, you need other to trust in you just as much as you need to trust others. So how do you develop trust within your team.

You can start easily with "Trust begets trust." You need to demonstrate that you are open to influence and value other peoples alternative viewpoints. Trust is built when you make yourself vulnerable. You simply need to demonstrate trust in others before asking for trust from others. And finally, listen, listen, listen in order to demonstrate your respect for others and their ideas.

Thanks to Kouzes and Posner, I have taken these simple trust concepts and have now associated them with the phrase, "Trust begets trust."

I'd love to hear other catch phrases from you that effectively allow you to package a leadership principle or concepts. Please comment.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Can you see it? Vision is key for leaders.

This past week I was pondering the role of vision for quiet leaders. I was prompted by the comment from leadership speaker and trainer Dan Stockdale on last week's post Quick Leadership Test - Are you a we or me leader?

In his comment Dan stated, "One of the other fundamental tenets for leaders is the ability for a leader to develop and instill a shared vision amongst their team."

The role of vision is not a new principle at the Lead Quietly blog. In Act with vision - the Vision of Quiet Leadership, I proposed that leaders need to Act with Vision, that is, leaders should act with forward looking purpose, act with awareness of events around finally, begin with the end in mind.

My continuing review of The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner is the perfect platform for expanding our Quiet Leader notes on vision. Vision is an important tenet of their leadership principles. Here are some snippets.

The Kouzes and Posner definition:
Vision .... means an ideal and unique image of the future for the common good. It implies a choice of values and something that brings meaning and purpose to our lives.

Visions are about hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They're about our strong desire to achieve something great.....Visions necessarily stretch us to imagine exciting possibilities, breakthrough technologies, or revolutionary social change.

Kouzes and Posner describe the importance of a shared vision across a team or organization.

Remember that leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue. Leadership isn't about imposing the leader's solo dreams; it's about developing a shared sense of destiny.

Finally, I encountered an inhibitor to vision that I have experienced, that is, a situation where a vision can be prevented from taking hold. Kouzes and Posner cite,
Visions are not strategic plans. Strategic planning often spoils strategic thinking because it causes managers to believe that the manipulation of numbers creates imaginative insight into the future and vision.

The suggestion is that vision stacked against plans, budgets, and resource allocations, may not stand up. The standard tools of planning don't add insight or drive to a vision. In fact, my experience suggests that saddling a vision with standard management tools like plans, budgets, and reports may kill the vision.
Anyone else see this challenge?

Finally a closing quotation from
Theodore M. Hesburgh, President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame,
The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Quick Leadership Test - Are you a we or me leader?

A book that I have wanted to read since last spring was The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. More recently, I was reminded by the "Top Five Leadership Book" recommendations by fellow leadership blogger Ron Hurst at the MaterialLeadership blog. This was a book I had to read.

I connected with the book almost immediately in chapter one while reading about the "we" test for leadership.

Readers of this blog might sense that I like simple concepts. Simple concepts are ideas that resonate with a straightforward definition, a life hack, a list, or a quick test. I love to carry a few of these simple concepts in my pocket as a quick reference guide to good leadership. A simple concept inspires me and serves as a reminder that won't get lost in the complexity of everyday living.

Kouzes and Posner's "we" test for leadership is a perfect example of a simple concept.

In chapter one, Kouses and Posner introduce the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. The fourth practice cited by Kouzes and Posner is "Enable Other to Act." As they write,
Exemplary leaders enable others to act. They foster collaboration and build trust.
This is an idea that is perfectly consistent with the "Build Community" principle of Quiet Leadership. It was the "we test" that resonated with me. Here is their test:
Leadership is a team effort. After reviewing thousands of personal-best cases, we developed a simple test to detect whether someone is on the road to becoming a leader. That test is the frequency of the use of the word "we." In our interview with Alan Keith, for instance, he used the word "we" nearly three times more often then the word "I" in explaining his personal-best leadership experience.
It's a simple concept. "We" is the leadership pronoun.

The test is simple. When you review your work or provide a status report to your manager, are you using the leadership pronoun.

I had previously recognized the "we" concept in my June post that recognized former President Eisenhower as a quiet leader. Historian and author Stephen Ambrose stated,

Eisenhower never used the word "I". It was always "we," except one time when he wrote out the message that would be handed to the press in the event the landings failed. And there he used the personal vertical pronoun, it's my fault, I did it. Otherwise it was always "we".

Its a proven idea and a simple concept that resonates. Are you a "we or me" leader? We is the leadership pronoun.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Post # 51 - In Celebration of Quiet Leadership

Today I am quietly celebrating two events.

First, I am celebrating the first 50 posts to LeadQuietly.com and I have to say that the exhilaration I get from learning, sharing, and building community around Quiet Leadership is stronger than ever. A most sincere thank you goes to the community of readers who continue to participant in this journey.

Secondly, I am celebrating the growing recognition of the Quiet Leadership style. In my inaugural post last May I stated my mission.
As I look around me, I see that the most challenging business problems are solved by teams led by one or more quiet, thoughtful leaders. I am not alone in this discovery. There is a growing body of work touting the notion of quiet leaders and heralding their work and achievement.
I am writing this blog to start conversation and sustain study about quiet leadership. I want the conversation to include a community of leaders who share the notion that being a leader is not about heroic speeches, “follow me” pep talks, or fist pumping tirades.

I am celebrating the growing recognition of Quiet Leadership as a leadership style that works and is celebrated. Here are a couple of my recent discoveries:

Yvonne Russell - Leadership Basics & the Quiet Leadership Style on the Small Biz Mentor Blog.

ChangingMinds.org - The Quiet Leader

Finally I'd like to draw a quotation from the book, A Life In Leadership: From D-Day to Ground Zero by John C. Whitehead. In the autobiography, Whitehead, whose leadership experience includes the military, finance (Chairman, Goldman Sachs), and government (Deputy Secretary of State) describes his leadership preference.

The classic image of an American leader is someone like Teddy Roosevelt, leading his men up San Juan Hill in a a hail of bullets. General Douglas MacArthur, Lee Iacocca, Bear Bryant, and Bobby Knight are all in the mold-brash, charismatic, compelling, and seemingly fearless. That has never been my style, though. I've always believed in the virtue of what I call quiet leadership. My models are people like President Dwight Eisenhower, General George Marshall, David Rockefeller, Kofi Annan, and Mother Teresa. They are not the swashbuckling heroes of the Hollywood variety. Instead, they are quiet, patient, thoughtful people who rarely let their passions rule them. Their inspiration is calmer, almost spiritual in nature, as they are guided by high ideals. They are not thundering orators, nor dashing figures, but they can be remarkably persuasive all of same by appealing to the better side of a person. I think society can use more people like that; such people usually accomplish more than the loud, flamboyant types.

Hear, hear. Beautifully stated.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fixed or Growth, What's in your mindset?

I have posited in earlier posts that learning and adapting are key and essential elements of quiet leadership. The hypothesis of an earlier post, It's All About Learning, Part Deux is, "Highly effective, remarkable leaders must be continuous, lifelong learners."

This week, I was introduced to the work of Carol Dweck, professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her work brain development and learning further validates the importance of learning to success. The short video will give you an introduction to her work.

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck identifies two mindsets, i.e. fixed and growth, that impact and influence people's success.

1. People with a fixed mindset believe that talents and abilities are fixed. You are rationed an amount and those are the cards you are dealt.

2. People with the growth mindset believe that talents and abilities are developed through education, work, passion, and persistence.

It seems like a simple concept to suggest that people with an openness to learning have greater success and the research of Dweck and others bears this out. It's a pretty simple concept and straightforward relationship.

What can the leader do to increase learning? It appears that encouragement and coaching can have an impact. One study of student achievement by Dweck and others compared the student results across two groups who were learning study skills. The control group received only the standard study skills training. The experimental group received the study skills training and were also taught, "how they could learn to be smart—describing the brain as a muscle that became stronger the more it was used." The skills improvement in the experimental group exceeded the improvement in the control group suggesting that the perception that a person has about their ability to learn impacts learning.

My simple interpretation of the research for leaders is to coach, mentor, encourage, and create opportunities for learning for yourself and the people around you. You are hoping to avoid mindset "lock down" and foster the growth mindset for greater success. Again, it seems that it is "All about learning."

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What leaders really do.

I was inspired this past week with a new body of work when I discovered an insightful Harvard Business Review article and an extended body of work by former Harvard professor John Kotter.

Thanks to Jim Estill, CEO of SYNNEX Canada in his CEO Blog - Time Leadership blog for facilitating this discovery with his summary of the Harvard Business Review article, What Leaders Really Do.

In the HBR article, Kotter reflects on the difference between management and leadership. Although this topic is frequently explored as verified by a quick Google search, I appreciated a number of Kotter's insights on the role of leadership in a "managed" organization.

So what do leaders do:

They don't make plans; they don't even organize people. What leaders really do is prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it.

Leadership isn't mystical and mysterious. It has nothing to do with having "charisma"or other exotic personality traits. It is not the province of a chosen few.

Leadership ... is about coping with change. More change always demands more leadership.

Since the function of leadership is to produce change, setting the direction of that change is fundamental to leadership. Setting direction is never the same as planning or even long-term planning.

The more that change characterizes the business environment, the more that leaders must motivate people to provide leadership as well. When this works, it tends to reproduce leadership across the entire organization, with people occupying multiple leadership roles throughout the hierarchy. This is highly valuable, because coping with change in any complex business demands initiatives from a multitude of people. Nothing less will work.

But perhaps the most aha moment for me started with this Kotter quote, "Most U.S. corporations today are overmanaged and underled." The organization that over focuses on budgets, plans, forecast and organization may miss the mark. I found his military analogy, written in 1991 before the Iraq war, very insightful,
Consider a simple military analogy:
A peacetime army can usually survive with good administration and management up and down the hierarchy, coupled with good leadership concentrated at the very top. A wartime army, however, needs competent leadership at all levels. No one yet has figured out how to manage people effectively into battle; they must be led.
The Kotter article is highly recommended for quiet leaders.

Thank for reading. Please lead quietly.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And you thought leadership was hard.

Leadership doesn't have to be difficult. I have been studying, exploring, and communicating this hypothesis during the past few months. You might recall my simple strategies for building community using smiles, gratitude, and giving.

This past week while exploring for new quiet leadership insight, I encountered Dee Hock and the 60 Second PhD in Leadership.

My first encounter was a YouTube leadership video by Tom Peters where he quotes Dee Hock. I think the video is 90 seconds well spent.

I wasn't familiar with Dee Hock so I "Googled" and found the The 60 Second PhD in Leadership. I appreciated the simplicity as conveyed by the founder and former CEO of VISA.

1. Make a list of all things done to you that you abhorred.
3. Make another list of things done to you that you loved.
This sentiment is brilliant but like many explorations, one discovery leads to another.

More from Dee Hock

The Google search also led me to a nice biography of Dee Hock the founder of Visa on the FastcCompany site in an article entitled, The Trillion-Dollar Vision of Dee Hock.

An interesting, albeit more complicated, insight from this article is related to organization. The insight was particularly relevant to me.

I work in an environment where focus on structure, organization, governance, budget, resources and funding seems to dominate the attention of our team. From this perspective, a Dee Hock quote in the Fast Company article was compelling,
The better an organization is, the less obvious it is. In Visa, we tried to create an invisible organization and keep it that way. It's the results, not the structure or management that should be apparent.
Our team got 15 seconds of attention this past week on great results in saving a client relationship through some last minute development adjustments.

Certainly, there was more than 15 seconds of effort during the days before. But interestingly during this effort, not once was there a question about estimates, funding, business requirements, project management, or process on this effort. Not once did any body ask who was going to fund this effort. Despite these organizational "deficits" the mission was accomplished and well done. The team seized the opportunity to just perform.

Once the fifteen seconds of accolades were over, we resumed our normal organizational processes where questions of estimates, priorities, funding, forecasts, and governance dominated much of the project discussion and effort. Is this they way things should be?

It's a rhetorical question but this led me to another Dee Hock topic to explore, that is, the notion of chaordic systems. The Wikipedia definition is a system that blends characteristics of chaos and order.

I'll leave this exploration for another post but I'm pretty intrigued that we as a team had this remarkable ability to self-direct and excel when the conditions were right. Why couldn't this be the norm? Anyone else with chaordic experience? I'm looking for comment and insight.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Building Community: Thank you, as a way of leading.

Gratitude is an easy and remarkably powerful step in building the type of community that is essential for successful teams. As I have written before, "Building community is hard. However, it is easy to start quietly and simply with thanks and smiles.

The power of gratitude was twice validated for me this past week.

First, I'd invite everyone to read the wonderful work of Rosa Say. I have employed Rosa's insight several times in the past including, 12 Rules for Leadership and It's All About Learning.

This week, her Managing with Aloha Coaching blog introduced me to the concept of "mahalo" which means thankful living. The most striking suggestion for a quiet leader is,

Say “thank you” often; speak of your appreciation and it will soften the tone of your voice, giving it richness, humility and fullness.

My second validation on the power of gratitude occurred this week during a family member's hospital stay. Nurses and care givers in any health care setting are asked to do a lot. Their role in recovery is huge and the responsibility ranges from comfort to advocacy, from medicine to management.

I had many opportunities this past week to look a nurse or care giver directly in the eye and say "thank you."

No two response were the same, but the power of the phrase was clear. In one case, my perception was that amidst the pain, groaning, expectations, and entitlement, gratitude wasn't expressed very often. In another case, the response led to a "I love nursing" conversation. In a third case the response suggested the partnership between patient and nurse. The responses, although varied, will forever etch the power of gratitude in my mind.

My suggestion to leaders; leverage this wonderful power. Look at your team members or coworkers directly in the eye and say thank you. I believe you'll instantly realize the power of gratitude.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Keep it balanced, in 3D

The concept of Quiet Leadership includes the the notion of "balance." My vision of balance is multifaceted where balance applies to many elements of life, work and leadership. This includes, for example, the balance of work and personal life, the balance between individual needs and organizational needs, the balance of opinions that needs to occur within teams, the balance required to moderate disagreement. A quiet leader strives to keep it balanced.

Jim Bolt recently wrote about balance on the Fast Company site. The article, Developing The 3-Dimensional Leader, describes the common absence of balance in leaders and the need for three dimensional leaders. As he writes, "Too many leaders today are one-dimensional, narrowly focused on business results."

Bolt's three dimensional leadership implores leaders to strike a balance between business needs, leadership, and personal needs. Here is his description of the three dimensions:

The three-dimensional framework calls for the development of an individual’s business, leadership, and personal effectiveness skills:

  • Business Dimension: Mind-sets and capabilities needed to identify and address critical business challenges
  • Leadership Dimension: Fully developed leadership capacity needed to lead the organization confidently into the future
  • Personal Dimension: Personal effectiveness skills needed to achieve excellence, balance and ongoing renewal

This three dimensional framework perfectly depicts the balance required of quiet leaders. Please read Bolt's article.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Building Community with Giving

One of the principles of quiet leadership focuses on the need for leaders to build community. I've suggested in an earlier post that community building can start simply, with thanks, and smiles. One of my favorite Tom Peters pleadings, "It begets it." Smiles begets smiles, thanks begets thanks.

What follows after the simple start? I'd propose giving and service.

Consultant Michelle Kunz writes extensively about giving in her Power Energy Leadership blog. In Excellence is Giving she talks about the benefits of giving and quotes the creed of BNI, the global business networking group that "Givers Gain."

Consider these returns cited by Kunz in her post:
  • Trust -- people trust those who have their interests truly at the center of all they do
  • Admiration -- people admire those who commit their energies to advancing the common good
  • Respect -- people respect those who dedicate their time to helping others win
  • Wisdom -- when we listen deeply to what others need we learn more about ourselves and the world around us
  • Humility -- giving to others shines a mirror back on all that we have and helps us feel grateful
  • Authenticity -- giving deeply of ourselves removes the filters we keep in place when we withhold, requiring our true selves to come into focus
  • Integrity -- aligning our values with principles which do not change greatly simplifies the challenge of walking our talk
This represents huge returns for the simple act of giving and serving. Maybe building community doesn't have to be hard. Start with smiles, thanks, and add a little giving.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Leadership in 60 Seconds or less

Don't have enough time to study leadership?

Leadership consultant Phil Dourado author of The 60 Second Leader: Everything You Need to Know About Leadership, in 60 Second Bites has posted an even shorter ebook available on his blog.

I've embedded the slideshow here:

Among these gems there were numerous highlights. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“Leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it.”
Henry Mintzberg

Make people feel an essential part of the story through the work they do every day…Remember this mythical JFK anecdote?
The president was visiting NASA headquarters and stopped to talk to a man who was holding a mop. “And what do you do?” he asked. The man, a janitor, replied, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon, sir.”
Phil Dourado

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Learning to Use the Full Brain

I wrote in September about my development experiment Improve Your Brain Power - Use your right brain. In this post, I wrote about the suggestion that you could develop your brain by the simple act of moving your mouse to the opposite hand.

I continue to be fascinated with left brain/right brain differences.

This week, after a couple of weeks of pretty intense day-job work with no time for blogging or reading, my discretionary reading took me to the Freakonomics blog where I discovered the The Right Brain vs Left Brain test.

Try it. It's fascinating.

I can switch directions with a different focus. What does this mean? When you read the Freakonomics blog comments, it seems that most people get a single direction.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Leadership - Spread it like butter

This week I read a thoughtful and memorable quote in Don't be a Leadership Hog by blogger Miki Saxon on Leadership Turn. She says,

Leadership is like manure, it produces the best results
when spread around.

Miki describes the benefits of pushing responsibility and leadership opportunities to every corner of the organization. It provides a number of developmental and productivity benefits.

I totally and wholeheartedly agree with the underlying principles. The sharing of leadership is perfectly consistent with the Quiet Leadership principle of building community.

However, I don't feel the same about the analogy.

Maybe it's my Minnesota farm boy background. I spent enough time pitching and spreading manure to be able to speak with some expertise. Here is my issue. Regardless of how much you spread it, it is still _______. (You can fill in your own favorite four-letter word if you prefer or use just use manure.) It is simply distasteful no matter how thin you spread it. Leadership should not be distasteful.

It caused me to question. Is there another spreadable metaphor that doesn't carry the same image or memory? I came up with butter.

Here in Minnesota, you start with your standard one pound box of Land O' Lakes butter with 4 quarter sticks. Take a knife and cut off about one half inch or about one teaspoon of butter. Not many people can eat a teaspoon of butter straight from the stick. You can try it if you like. Not me.

Most people would say that if you spread it onto a piece of bread or toast, the true taste and pleasure makes it mark. Kind of like leadership, butter is best when it is spread around.

Now imagine if the butter is cold and you try to spread it onto a piece of bread. You usually end up splitting the bread. Cold, macho leadership does the same with teams.

If the butter is warm, it spreads easier and the butter is easily accepted into every pore of the bread. Kind of like quiet, thoughtful leadership. Spreads easily. Easily received.

And, if the butter is totally melted, imagine the ecstasy of shrimp or scallops performing synchronized swim routines in the butter warmer. This is like servant leadership where the butter gives up it own identify to only serve and influence.

Please read the Leadership Turn post and it great leadership principle. However, I prefer to spread butter over manure.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Google

Reading Happy 9th Birthday Google on CybernetNews.com caused me to consider how much this blog and my daily life is dependent on Google tools and applications. Here is my suite of essential Google apps:
  • Blogger
  • Feedburner
  • Google Reader including mobile version
  • Google Mail including the mobile version
  • iGoogle
  • Google Search - the blogger in me particularly appreciates Book, Scholar, and Blog Search
  • Google Maps

Then I consider that my Google list doesn't include YouTube, a site that I generally only access when another blog links me to a video, but a site that is truly a social phenomenon. My list doesn't include AdWords, the Google revenue flagship.

Am I afraid of Google's dominant position? For me, not yet. But I recall having the same feeling about Microsoft a few years ago. This feeling changed with the emergence of Linux, Yahoo, and Google. Competition is good. I truly hope that another player is certainly sitting in the wings.

In the meantime, a tip of the hat and "Happy Birthday" to Google.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Improve Your Brain Power - Use your right brain.

OK. I confess. I'm writing this blog using my mouse in my non-dominant hand, i.e. my left hand.

I also plan on looking around my office for people who are using their mouse in the opposite hand. Of course, I'll have remember that I have a couple of people in my area who are left handed. They should be mousing with their right hand.

Why, you say?

I'm trying to improve my brain power. Read this post at Dumb Little Man and make your own decision. Could it be this easy?

I'm a little afraid of being duped by some new urban legend. Is this the blogger, lifehacker equivalent to a virus hoax? Is there a blogger somewhere laughing at my gullibility?

I have done some preliminary research and find some basis for the thinking. The SelfHelp.Com site is pretty supportive with the article,
Whole Brain Thinking: How to Get Your Right Hemisphere in the Picture.

For sure, I'd like to find a more scholarly resource for confirmation. I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly. Use your non-dominant hand.

P.S. If you find that any of the links are flawed, I blame my left hand.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Magic of Great Leadership

Are great leaders magicians. I vote yes.

You will agree when you read the insight of business coach and speaker Anna Farmery in a recent post on her
Engaging Brand blog.

Great magicians must work hard at their craft, engage the audience, use ingenuity, respect their values. Just like great magicians, great leaders must also work hard at their craft.

Please read Anna's post. Are you a working on your craft?

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Build Community - Start simply with smiles and thanks

Good leaders build community. Building community is hard. However, it is easy to start quietly and simply with thanks and smiles.

In a recent post at Slow Leadership, Carmine Coyote wrote about The Power of Gratitude. The post suggest that gratitude is a "major constituent in the glue that holds together groups of all sizes, from a few friends to society as a whole."

This definition places gratitude, which generally starts out with a simple thank you, in a very exalted role. You might debate as to whether gratitude is more or less important than honesty, trust, or service in building community. However, we can immediately agree there is nothing easier than a simple "thank you."

Nothing easier than a simple thank you, except for a simple smile.

A Smile Costs Nothing,
but gives much.
It enriches those who receive
without making poorer those who give.
It takes but a moment
but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
None is so rich and mighty
that he can get along without it,
and none is so poor that he cannot
be made rich by it.

A Smile creates happiness in the home,
fosters goodwill in business,
and is the countersign of friendship.
A smile brings rest to the weary,
cheer to the discouraged,
sunshine to the sad,
and it is nature's best antidote for

Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen,
for it is something that is of no value to anyone
until it is
given away.

Some people are too tired to give you a smile,
Give them one of yours,
as none needs a smile so much
as he
who has no more to give.

(but believed based on the work of
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch)

The combination of thanks and smiles lays a very powerful foundation for great community. And it is so easy to start. As Tom Peters says,

It begets it.

Thanks begets thanks.

Smiles begets smiles

Thank for reading. Please lead quietly. Keep thanking, keep smiling. It's contagious.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Daily Learning with Life Hacks

I'm a fan of learning, continuous learning, at home, at work, anywhere. We should be always reading, listening, and exploring.

I'm a fan of Life Hacks, those little learning tips that make give you new insight, make you more productive, save you money, and keeps you in touch with new tools.

I'm a fan of sharing, a great way to build community.

I'm a fan of Google Reader, at home, at work (work related of course), on my phone. Its part of my daily subscription to learning. I guess I'm admitting that I am a citizen of the "Google Nation."

Putting this all together, I'd like to share my Google Reader "Don's Hacks" folder/label.

My Don's Hack folder in Google Reader includes the following subscriptions:

Digital Inspiration

Dumb Little Man - Tips for Life



LifeRemix All

zen habits

You'll see what shows in my Google Reader Don's Hack folder.

I'm certainly not expecting anyone to get really excited over the public page of my Reader's Don's Hack folder. Nevertheless, I learned and discovered quite a bit in this sharing exercise. And maybe the effort will allow someone to discover a useful "life hack,"

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Act with vision - the Vision of Quiet Leadership

Leadership requires vision. Theodore M. Hesburgh, the former president of Notre Dame University says, "The very essence of leadership is you have to have a vision."

My developing manifesto on Quiet Leadership encourages leaders to "Act with vision." In this context vision requires additional definition. How would a quiet leader define the vision required of leaders.

If you review the "textbook" definitions of vision no single definition seems to relate to leadership. Here are definitions courtesy of Merriam-Webster online:

  • something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy

  • a manifestation to the senses of something immaterial

  • the act or power of seeing

  • direct mystical awareness of the supernatural usually in visible form

So what is vision's link to leadership and how about quiet leadership?

I'd like to offer two views of leadership vision that that draw out the essential ingredients to "Act with vision." My two definitions are 1) forward-looking vision and 2) awareness.

Forward-looking Vision

Many authors and experts, when describing the link between vision and leadership, will refer to strategic or forward looking vision. A leader must be a visionary. A leader's role is to define a mission or cause. A leader must be forward looking.

Picture Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. calling out, "I have a dream" and this definition becomes clear. Stephen Covey in his book The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness talks about vision as "seeing with the minds' eye what is possible in people, in projects, in causes and in enterprises. Vision results when our minds joins need with possibility"

The research of Posner and Kouzes, as the basis for their best seller, The Leadership Challenge, 3rd Edition position this strategic "forward looking" vision as a key character that is universally expected of leaders. Forward looking vision is simply expected of leaders.

Forward-looking vision also links to a key skill of problems solvers, the ability to visualize solutions and models. Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization describes this vision as the pictures or images that influence how we understand the word and how we take action.

In the book Einstein: His Life and Universe, author Walter Isaacson suggests that Einstein's ability to construct thought experiments might have been the key to his insight. Many of Einstein's theories were the result of thought experiments, that is, the production of Einstein's mental laboratory. Einstein's vision may represent the ultimate in problem-solving vision.

Problem-solving vision is also the type of vision that Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People proposes when he encourages effective people to "begin with the end in mind."


My second view of vision for quiet leaders is awareness. I associate this form of vision as the vision that is described when a television football analyst suggests that a successful running back has good vision. This is interpreted to mean that the player has awareness of the position of teammates and defenders, and blocking opportunities. The running back has the ability to see emerging holes in the defense.

Leaders need the same type of awareness, i.e. an awareness of people, skills, processes, work, and opportunities that surround the leader. A good leader is mindful of the organizational relationships and politics. An effective leader should be aware and mindful of the world around.

In the book
Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion, authors Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee state,

When we are mindful, we are more in control of ourselves and
situations simply because we see reality more clearly

Self awareness also applies. The ancient Greek aphorism, "Know Thyself" sets the stage for leadership. Leadership guru Warren Bennis starts his definition of leadership with "Leadership is a function of knowing yourself"

Act with Vision

The Lead Quietly manifesto (a work in progress) will propose that leaders should "Act with vision." In this context, leaders should act with forward looking purpose, act with awareness of events around and within and begin with the end in mind.

Thanks for reading. Act with vision. Please lead quietly


Saturday, September 1, 2007

What do you mean Lead Quietly? Introducing the Lead Quietly Manifesto

A colleague of mine asked a very good question recently. He subscribes to Lead Quietly and asked what I meant when I close my blog with "Please Lead Quietly." I can't really mean you need to be quiet. Do I mean please lead effectively?

Certainly, but let me explain.

First, when I end the blog by saying, "Please lead quietly", I consier the phrase a tagline. As much as anything, it is a branding ploy. Kind of like:

  • Walter Cronkite - "That's the way it is."

  • Edward R. Murrow - "Good night and good luck."

  • Star Trek - "To boldly go where no man has gone before"
Of course, I recognize that "Please lead quietly." doesn't compare to these legendary taglines. However there is deeper meaning.

Over the months of learning and blogging I have tried to distill my notion of quiet leadership into a framework, a set of principles, a manifesto. It's a work in progress. Nevertheless let me share my early thoughts.

What is quiet leadership?

It is leadership where the leader focuses on four principles:

  • Building community.

  • Acting with vision.

  • Learning and adapting.

  • Keeping things balanced.
Future posts will explore these four concepts. My ultimate goal is to publish a "Lead Quietly" manifesto.

So what does any of this have to do with being quiet. Very little. But these principles are accessible to any leader. You don't have to be charismatic or a super hero. Anyone can lead quietly. And I firmly believe that many loud, macho leaders would be better leaders with some quiet insight.

Your comments are always welcome.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Shopping for Leadership Tools: Methods, Models, and Theories

There is a Chinese proverb that suggests, "To do good work, one must first have good tools"

Tools are indispensable. Take a craftsman like Norm Abrams of the New Yankee Workshop. He is, of course, a legendary "tool man", a tool for every woodworking purpose. I couldn't imagine an episode of the TV series that didn't feature Norm with his tools. I'm not a serious woodworker but often wish I was; particularly after watching an episode.

What about leadership tools? What tools are available? How do you find a good tools to assist with a decision, a challenge, an analysis?

There are numerous methods, models, theories, and diagrams. But unfortunately, leaders can't browse for tools at the local Sears store, it often takes lengthy research to find a new tool and you probably need the tool now.

There is one resource that Guy Kawasaki introduced on his How to Change the World blog. He refers to it as "MBA on a Page" but I equate it to the Sears Craftsman collection of leadership tools. The resource is provided by the Value Based Management site. Check out their collection of Methods, Models, and Theories.

It's like shopping for tools at Sears. You can pick it up, hold it, read the instructions, feel how heavy it is. Some examples to browse:
Finally, remember those Ps when talking about Marketing Mix. It is 4 Ps, 5 Ps, or Seven Ps?

It is a nice resource.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Lesson in Community and People

I was touched today by a post on the BrettAtkin Design blog. I will only say that this is a great lesson in leadership.

There are people that I work with whose life I don't

Please read the story.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Friday, August 24, 2007

For the love of learning, you gotta love a good list.

Leadership and learning are an inseparable pair. As John F. Kennedy said, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

In today's environment, leaders require learning opportunities that are continuous, always accessible, and fast.

As Jack Stack writes in the forward of the book,
1001 Ways to Reward Employees

We like things fast, but we don't have time to study. The world is changing so rapidly that by the time we learn something, it has often changed in some way, shape, or form. We want information in small bites
Learning opportunities come in a variety of forms. Of course there is the classic class or seminar. However, I find that continuous learning is more likely to come from reading, life lessons, discovery, experience, and, a more recent revelation, a good list. For me, the discovery and review of a good list is a great learning opportunity. Let me explain more.

For example, I recently encountered "The Manager's Cheat Sheet: 101 Common-Sense Rules for Leaders" on the Inside CRM site. The Cheat Sheet is a list of tips for managers and leaders.

When you review the list, you might say, "been there, done that" for many of the items. In that case, the validation is useful and important in learning. It is good to know that a concept that you hold dear is validated and valued elsewhere. For example, take rule #8:

Always smile. Smiles are contagious and will make others feel positive when you're around.

I blogged on this idea in a post titled, It Begets It. The "Manager's Cheat Sheet" list validated an existing notion that I had. This is learning.

Other rules might put a new twist on an old concept. For example, rule #77:

Adopt a predictive managerial style. Don't wait for things to happen to make a move. Anticipate problems and provide contingency plans.

This rules reminds me of the quiet leadership definition of vision. The type of vision that gives you awareness of the events around you and serves the opportunity to be proactive. The rule put a new twist on another concept. Still, this is learning and it is fast.

A good list allows you to quickly discover and validate. For the love of learning, you gotta love a good list.

The Manager's Cheat Sheet is one of hundreds of good lists. Here are a couple more of my favorites:

Rosa Say: Twelve Rules of Self-Leadership
Slacker Manager:
Guiding Principles

The 12 Characteristics of High Performance Teams
Tom Peters - Change this Manifesto:
This I Believe

I'd love to learn about other lists readers have found useful. In the interest of learning, please comment with other lists that you appreciate. Remember it's all about learning.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Apples are Square - Changing the Way We Lead

My study of leadership recently brought into sight a 2007 book by Thomas and Susan Kuczmarski entitled, Apples Are Square: Thinking Differently About Leadership. The key highlight of the book is its exploration of the human side of leadership.

With a subtitle of "The 6 Critical Values That Are Changing the Way We Lead and Succeed, the Kuczmarski's identify six leadership qualities, that is, the six sides of a squared apple. These six qualities are:

  • Humility - Leaders should view themselves as insignificant
  • Compassion - Leaders understand others and are concerned with other's well being.
  • Transparency - A leader must be emotionally and mentally accessible to other. No hidden agendas.
  • Inclusiveness - A leader must accept and value people's differences.
  • Collaboration - A leader must leverage people's strength to form strong partnerships in pursuit of common goals.
  • Values-based Decisiveness - A leader must allow values to serve as the compass for decision-making.
The six qualities align nicely with the human side of quiet leadership.

The authors follow this list with a seven step approach for implementing change. The first step is to "Reach out to serve others" essentially, living as a servant. Call it servant leadership if you prefer.

The book provides nice insight on leadership and a framework for evaluating the human side of your organization. How does your organization fit?

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Leadership's New Rules

In a complex world, a person who is able to simplify and define with succinct principles and rules, provides a valuable service to other students of the genre. This is true in information technology or the study of leadership.

My study of leadership lead me to the
Practice of Leadership Blog where blogger George Ambler provides three new rules for leadership and provides contrast to the old rules. Here is a summary of Leadership's new rules.

Under the rules a leader must:

Old Rule #1: Know and to serve as a final authority in important decisions.
New Rule #1: Find ways to uncover and connect the collective wisdom of our people. Link the collective skills of a team.

Old Rule #2: Control-information, people, risk, the future.
New Rule #2: Ask questions and facilitate conversations. Align and focus the energy of the team.

Old Rule #3: Drive and monitor organization performance. Punish mistakes.
New Rule #3: Sustain high performance by noticing and appreciating when people do things right-especially. Reinforce courage and right-minded action. Support risk taking.

This comparison of old to new provided new insight in the challenge of quiet leadership.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

The New Psychology of Leadership

I found quiet leadership insight in a recent online article written by Michael J. Platow , S. Alexander Haslam and Stephen D. Reicher titled, Scientific American Mind: The New Psychology of Leadership.
The article summary states, "recent research in psychology points to secrets of effective leadership that radically challenge conventional wisdom."
I debate whether the findings are really radical given the growing body of work in support of quiet leadership. Nevertheless, I found the core hypothesis and research citations insightful. For example, an early paragraph states,
effective leaders must work to understand the values and opinions of their followers—rather than assuming absolute authority—to enable a productive dialogue with followers about what the group embodies and stands for and thus how it should act.
This states the importance of community in leadership. Consensus and participation is far more important than charisma. One of the more intriguing research studies sited was the BBC Prison Study, a study of leadership that emerges from the group identify of the prisoners compared to the less effective authority-based leadership exhibited by the guards. This study was the basis for a controversial reality show called "The Experiment."
My only challenge to the article was their use of the leadership of George W Bush as an example of the new leadership. To the authors, Bush gained significant leadership stature by projecting himself as a "regular guy." I can say with certainty that President Bush will not make my list of Quiet Leaders. Credibility and honesty will trump the regular guy status.
Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Leadership Style - adapt as needed

I believe that an effective leader should be able to adapt his or her style to match the situation. There are times when command and control are appropriate. There are other times with teams when the best leadership is no leadership at all...just stay out of the way.

I appreciated the blogging efforts of Andriy Solovey in his Software Creation Mystery blog when he recently posted
What is The Best Leader for The Software Team?

In the post, Solovey identifies and describes four leadership styles that can work with software teams:

1. Command
2. Coach
3. Supporter
4. Self Organization

The highlight of the post was his description of the style selection process. The key decision factors include team commitment, knowledge, focus, and importantly available resources. I liked the simplicity he adds to this process. Could work for any type of team.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Review: Quiet Leadership - Help People Think Better - Don't Tell Then What to Do!

The book title definitely caught my attention, Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work by David Rock.

I recently read the book and liked it's concepts. Definitely consistent with my notion of Quiet Leadership.

In the book, Rock encourages leadership based on a six step program, namely,
  1. Think about Thinking
  2. Listen for Potential
  3. Speak with Intent
  4. Dance Toward Insight
  5. Create New Thinking
  6. Follow Up

I like the intent. Rock advises leaders to stop giving advice, ask questions, listen to understand and work collaboratively to come up with a solution. The approach is very consistent with the Lead Quietly approach.

I particularly like his "Think about Thinking" postulate. In this step, he encourages leaders to think about other people's thinking, not what they are thinking about but the way they think. This is truly critical thinking. His concept reminded my of the classic definition of critical thinking that comes from the 1989 work of Paul, Binker, Adamson, and Martin where they defined critical thinking as,

the art of thinking about your thinking while you are thinking in order to make your thinking better: more clear, more accurate, or more defensible.

I do believe that quiet leaders must be great thinkers but as Rock concludes, try to let other's thinking take center stage. He encourages that leaders should let other people think through the issues. This may start out as easy as asking of your teammates, "What do you think? What is your opinion?"

David Rock makes a good point in the book. And it can be simple!

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Friday, August 3, 2007

Quiet Leaders: Have a good pitch

I'm guilty. I'm not prepared.

If I found myself in an elevator with one of my favorite bloggers, I'd stammer pretty badly. If I found Guy Kawasaki, Rosa Say or Jonathan Farrington in the elevator and I had three minutes to describe this blog, I'd be totally unprepared. If I found Ralph Kimball in the elevator, and I had a couple of floors to describe my work, I'd be too intimidated. I am not prepared.

These thoughts all came to me after reading
How to Craft a Killer Elevator Pitch That Will Land You Big Business on the Dumb Little Man blog.

I'm pretty embarrassed to be in this state. It's been a couple of years, but I used to teach my critical thinking students that their critical thinking skills could land them a great job if they were able to craft a 30 second elevator pitch describing their critical thinking skills.

It's even more important for quiet leaders to have a well tuned pitch. Many of us are introverts who might be inclined to stand quietly in the back of the elevator when the opportunity arises.

I've been caught. I've learned a lesson. I'll be practicing during my commute starting today.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Muhammad Ali: A Quiet Respect for his Courage and Conviction

If you followed the boxing career of Muhammad Ali, you would question the sanity of any blogger who would post about "The Greatest" in any "Quiet" setting. How could anyone say that Muhammad Ali had anything in common with "Quiet Leadership?"

You are right. I am not ready to include the boxing great in my list of quiet leaders. However, a recent weekend car trip gave me an opportunity to listen to the audio version of Ali's book,
The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey. The book changed my perception of the man.

It's Showmanship
Ali writes, "During my boxing career, you did not see the real Muhammad Ali." Through the book, Ali wants to shift focus from the showmanship and bravado to the "real" Ali, his humanity, his spirituality, and his courage. Ali successfully changed my perception. In a quiet way, Ali is looking to change the world.

Character, Courage and Conviction
I was impressed with Ali's conviction and courage after he replayed the events surrounding the conflict between his spiritual beliefs and his eminent induction into the Army during the Vietnam war. I am old enough to remember the event. It left an impression and if you had asked me about it before listening to the book, I would have used the label "draft dodger." Now I view the events with an admiration for Ali's courage and conviction. Ali risked and lost much with his decision not to accept his induction. He stuck to his beliefs (which the book convinced me were authentic), took the punishment, and came back.

The bottom line is that I would take this courage and conviction anytime over the draft avoidance approach used by our current president. Ali's character, conviction and courage is a good model for any quiet leader.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Myths of Leadership - It doesn't have to be loud

Consultant and speaker Greg Smith wrote an online article for Lab Manager Magazine that identifies five leadership myths, that is, five leadership characteristics that are "false, but believed to be true."

The article is another great example of the "growing body of work" that is compatible with quiet leadership as described on this blog.

Greg's list also reminds me of my learning and new insights gained over the past two months. Please allow my to reminisce. Here is the list of myths with my links to previous posts.

Myth 1 - Leadership is a rare ability only given to a few.
Agree. Anyone can be a leader.
It's a choice.

Myth 2 - Leaders are charismatic.
Agree. There is no inherent relationship between charisma and leadership. Unless you call it

Myth 3 - The person with the title, most rank or the highest position is the leader.
No Title Required. Big L leadership isn't required.

Myth 4 - Effective leadership is based on control, coercion, and manipulation
Macho Management, No Thanks.

Myth 5 - Good leaders have more education than other people.
Agree. Education is great but not necessarily related to leadership. To me, its really
all about learning.

Thanks for reading and reminiscing. Please lead quietly.