Saturday, June 30, 2007

Abraham Lincoln - Quiet Leader

These are the words spoken during the narrative within the orchestral composition, "Lincoln Portrait" by the American composer Aaron Copeland,
Lincoln was a quiet man. Abe Lincoln was a quiet and melancholy man.

Although many will simply view Abraham Lincoln as godlike, the hero and savior of the Union during the Civil War and the freer of slaves, a study of the life of Lincoln will identify that Lincoln was a very complex soul. Biographers have noted his depression, bipolar tendencies, tumultuous marriage, superstitions, seances at the White House (likely held by his wife Mary Todd Lincoln), and even controversial questions about his religion and sexuality. He also had another side highlighted by his skills at storytelling and humor. Let's just agree that Lincoln was a complicated man, quite unlike the simple heroic perception one might have. Within this complexity, I find quiet leadership.

My impression of Lincoln as a quiet leader is cemented in the book,
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln where historian Doris Kearns Goodwin adds a quiet leader dimension to the Lincoln biography when writing about his ability to bring his political rivals into his cabinet and sooth their egos, turn these rivals into allies, and gain their respect and loyalty through his political skill and insight into human behavior. It is this skill that the quiet leader in us emulates and the basis for nominating Lincoln as a quiet leader.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Leadership Acid Test

In a recent post of mine, I talked about the Big "L" Leaders. These are Leaders who have a title but don't always know leadership (leadership with a small l)

Leadership Now site in their Leadership Minute, describes leadership beyond or without the title. If you are a big "L" Leader, that is with a title, the site encourages you to occasionally perform a Leadership Acid Test.
If you were stripped of your title – the politics of leadership, the power to punish and reward people – would they still follow you?

Michael McKinney at Leadership Now recommends this test for Leaders. However, I think that the test is also interesting when applied to other Leaders.

Pick a Leader with a title. If that Leader no longer had a title, would you still follow him/her. Would the leader still have influence? I can think of Leaders on both sides of the answer. I guess that is life. A quiet leader (with a small "l") has no choice but to excel at influence the hard way. Might this mean that quiet leaders are better candidates for Leadership roles?

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Be Yourself

As a quiet leader, be yourself. Mold your own style and approach. Stay true to your own personal style.

Bill George, former Chairman of Medtronic and author of
Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value (J-B Warren Bennis Series) and more recently, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership (J-B Warren Bennis Series), encourages leaders to be authentic leaders. As he says, "No one can be authentic by trying to be like someone else. "

My recent study of leadership also lead me to a great post on the Leadership Now blog where blogger Michael McKinney notes in his summary of the
What Really Matters: Service, Leadership, People, and Values that John Pepper, former CEO and Chairman of Proctor and Gamble notes the personal element of leadership,
We need to recognize that everything in our institutions, everything in
life, depends on personal leadership, and personal leadership in turn depends on our being faithful to ourselves. Leadership is not some academic or abstract concept. It is very personal. Personal leadership makes things happen. Determine how you can best be of service in a particular situation, and you’ll know how to

We quiet leaders don't have to take on a persona that is not comfortable.

Be yourself and lead quietly.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Leadership - No Title Required

A quiet leader doesn't need a title.

Stephen Covey of the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame in his book The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness talks frequently about leadership not as a position but as a "proactive intention to affirm the work and potential of those around us..." Simply stated leadership is a choice not a title.

I recently enjoyed an article by Wayne Tumel on where he describes this as "Big L" Leaders (with a title) and Little L leaders, no title required. Here are his thoughts (Make sure you interpret the Big L's from the Little l's),

  • Leaders don't necessarily lead
  • leaders aren't necessarily Leaders
  • Leadership sometimes shows leadership but sometimes doesn't and there isn't
    a lot you can say or do
  • leadership doesn't only reside in the Leadership
Leadership (in this context, I really mean leadership with a small "l") is for anyone. Just because you work in the trenches, are a hands-on worker, are an able doer, doesn't mean that you aren't a leader. No title is required.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pull Leadership

The principles of quiet leadership align with "Pull Leadership" as prescribed by consultant Stever Robbins. In an article on the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge site, Stever writes,
"Push" leadership will push people right out the door. We
need leaders who inspire others to follow, who engender loyalty. We need leaders who practice "pull" leadership.

We can probably all remember at least one push leader in our past. It doesn't seem to matter whether the push leader was a command barker, or a titled authority, or a political manipulator, the push approach doesn't provide the sustainable leadership that an organization should strive for.

"Pull" or "Quiet" Leadership is hard. It is not what people expect and as Stever writes, "it's about recognizing that the leader isn't perfect, and that an organization's power comes from everyone who comprises it."

The "Pull Leadership" Manifesto has five quiet principles for leadership that the quiet leader can employ:
The Elements of Pull Leadership
1. Pull leaders take responsibility for the success of their organization and people.
2. Pull leaders work to become attractive to others.
3. Pull leaders align and inspire with values.
4. Pull leaders act as stewards of their organizations and people.
5. Pull leaders architect physical and social space.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Eisenhower - Quiet Leader

I identify Dwight Eisenhower as a quiet leader and my admiration for him has grown in recent months as I have been searching for definition to quiet leadership. I'm not alone in my admiration.

Historian Stephan Ambrose is quoted as saying, " Eisenhower is my choice as the American of the 20th Century. Of all the men I've studied and written about, he is the brightest and the best. "

One of the quiet leader attributes that Eisenhower embraced was the use of "we" in talking. In a PBS interview Amrose said,
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".

I recently listened to the book General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence, written by Eisenhower's son, John. A section of the book focused on the relationship between General George Patton and Eisenhower. There was a special relationship between the two men despite the contrast in styles. Eisenhower as a quiet, thoughtful leader, Patton was brash and frequently a source of frustration for his commander, Eisenhower. However, I respect that Eisenhower accepted and leveraged Patton's skills. Perhaps another trait of quiet leadership.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bring Paper - another Tom Peter's tip

As I have written before, there are many points made by Tom Peters that I don't agree with. For example, he starts the Re-imagine book with a "Made as Hell" prologue where he says,
"I happen to believe that all innovation comes, not from market research or carefully crafted focus groups, but from pissed-off people."

This quiet leader has a hard time believing that you have to be steamed in order to innovate. In fact I feel quite the contrary. I simply can't be creating or innovating when steamed.

However, a Tom Peters tip that I appreciate is also found in his success tips, #24.

Tom writes, "He/She who writes the Agenda and Summary Doc wields ... Incredible Power!" If you are attending a meeting you quietly benefit by bringing paper. The paper of course has an agenda, a proposal, an approach, anything that might allow you to control the agenda. Even if your thoughts are not fully formed, try passing out a discussion document that contains your "brainstorming." You will benefit with some control over the agenda.

When the meeting is over, volunteer to create summary notes. As Tom says, "
Only the meek & quiet Notetaker knows the story; and long after the participants have washed the memory of the meeting clean from their crowded lives, the Notetaker’s Summary comes along explaining what transpired ... Carefully Edited."

The moral of the story, "Bring paper."

Thanks for reading and please, lead quietly.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Egotistical (non-quiet) Leader

Dealing with an egoistical leader is tough. Dealing with an egotistical leader who is protecting turf while teammates are clearly interested in collaborative and shared team decisions makes for interesting dynamics. What is the Quiet Leader response?

In this regard, I read a very insightful article on Slow Leadership where the focus was on the egoistical leader and the impact of their posture,

Do we want to live in a world where politeness, gratitude, understanding, honesty, ethical dealing, and patience have become extinct? Where everyone is locked into their own bubble of petty concerns and nobody cares about anything else? Where rising to the top in career and financial terms means opting out of involvement in “unproductive” activities like friendship, helping others, and just taking time to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the world itself?
The basis for quiet leadership must remain altruistic. We must remain true to our beliefs and lose an occasional argument in order to win the debate. Stay the quiet course. And when we succeed, as the Slow Leadership article cited, "our joys and triumphs are greater when shared."

I appreciate the insight offered by Slow Leadership. I remain optimistic that an egotism epidemic can be suppressed with Slow and Quiet Leadership.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Politics at Work - Part Two

I made a note to myself in a previous post to continue reading and learning about "politics at work" by exploring the work of Gerald Ferris of the Florida State University.

The summary hypothesis of much of Ferris' work centers on the notion that politics in the office are unavoidable and that leaders must master political process. In encouraging us to rethink our notion of politics in the workplace Ferris proposes that political skill is a significant predictor of achievement in the workplace.

Of course there is good politics and bad politics. Bad or negative politics is what comes to mind when individuals work and manipulate the system to their individual gain and to the disadvantage of others. They need to get their own way. And the worst scenario, when their way goes against conventional wisdom or industry standards or best practices.

Ferris also sites ambiguity as an environmental variable that foster bad politics. "Politics thrives in ambiguity." (Note for quiet leaders - restate your mission and ensure the clarity of team and group roles.)

The good in politics depends on leaders who use politics for the betterment of the organization, to build credibility, to promote the good work of their teams, and as a vehicle of effective communication and support. Sounds like a quiet leader approach. Work quietly behind the scenes. Foster good communication and treat people well. Respect.

You can read more on Ferris and his work at the
Center for Creative Leadership.

Thanks for reading. Lead quietly.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

It begets it - Tom Peters

My daily reading/learning will occasionally take me to the Tom Peters web site. Wow, what a resource for leaders, managers, and entrepreneurs.

If you have ever seen Tom Peters you probably would not categorize him as a quiet leader. In fact, he is a self-described "professional loudmouth". He even flatly disagrees with some of the tenants of quiet leadership. See this You Tube video to see his critique of Jim Collin's Level 5 quietness.

Nevertheless, there are nuggets of quiet leadership theory throughout his work. One of my favorites, "it begets it."

You have to dig into the Tom Peters success tips archive to find "It begets it" in tip #5, "Target #1: Me!"

It begets it. It is a simple way of saying that if you do it, others will follow.
  • Smiles begets smiles. If you smile, others will smile back. Try it it works.
  • Thanks begets thanks. We can never say thank you too much. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone said thanks. It starts with you. Others will follow.
  • Names begets names. Greet people by name and the use of names will grow.
A quiet leader can influence his or her environment by starting with the little things. Smile, thank, use names, stay positive.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.