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.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Macho Management - NO THANKS

It sent shivers through me despite the 100 degree heat index of our current weather here in Minneapolis.

What's the source? Check out the Slow Leadership's Listing the sins of macho management.

I feel fortunate to work in an environment where Macho Management is rare with only occasional macho afflictions arising from managers struggling over their influence. If I go back further, I can remember managers in my past that fit the descriptions perfectly.

I'll take slow, quiet leadership anytime.

I'm still shivering. Gotta go and find a blanket.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Monday, July 23, 2007

What do you mean by charisma?

I struggle with the relationship between leadership and charisma. It is a complex relationship and a range of definitions for charisma adds to the confusion. What do you mean by charisma?

Writer, speaker and leadership coach Rhett Laubach provides a much appreciated insight by referring to charisma as care-isma. The label is brilliant.

I have written previously that there is no inherent link between leadership and charisma. My notion of quiet leadership is that charisma in the form of big theatrics and super powers is not required. Leadership does not require the characteristics defined in the classic and oft-cited definition of charisma by sociologist Max Weber. Weber's definition includes words like, "set apart from ordinary people and endowed with supernatural, superhuman powers, and heroic qualities."

I find Laubach's insight on care-isma just perfect. He writes,

People naturally like to be around people who are pleasant,
joyful and smiling. It is a natural response to a natural trait of influential people who are great at attracting others. Call it charisma if you want. I prefer to call it care-isma. It demonstrates you care about your attitude, you care about the influence you have on others, and you care about others.

This type of charisma, i.e. care-isma resolves the complexity for me. My less than super powers are quite adequate and I am happy to leave charisma to the actors, athletes, evangelists, and politicians. And the best news to me is that I can be myself. No other personas are required.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's All About Learning - Part Deux

Kevin Eikenberry contributed a compelling post to Jonathon Farrington's Leadership Turn blog entitled Why Learning Is A Leader’s Most Important Skill. It is highly recommended.

The essential hypothesis of the post was a single statement, "Highly effective, remarkable leaders must be continuous, lifelong learners."

There were a numerous of statements in support of the proposition that resonated with me. For example:

The status quo requires no leadership. ...learning is required to
continually adapt to and work under the changing conditions.

...leaders know that the mastery of these complexities is a lifelong journey with no defined endpoint. The result? The need and desire to be in a continuously learning mindset.
Kevin's assertion that leaders must "Model it for Others" caused me to reflect on the managers that I have had, some of who "got the importance of learning", and, of course, some who didn't. If a leader is an active learner, others will follow. I have had occasions to work for a managers who were active and continuous learners. They naturally encouraged learning and by far, the best leaders. I bet most would agree.

Although I believe that continuous learning should be organic and can occur without a school, course, program, or conference, the post also caused me to reflect on the number of times when I didn't spend my training budget in the beginning of the year. I'm sure many have the same regret when a mid-year change in the business resulted in second half belt tightening. What goes first? I guess I better make those plans!

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I'm Flattered

I have to say that this two-month experiment in blogging and, of course, learning about leadership is inherently rewarding. I've learned much and, as I am known to say, "It's all about learning!"

However, a little recognition adds to the experience. I appreciate the notice by my colleagues at Pearson. I am flattered. I am motivated.

I was also flattered this week by Trevor Hall's notice and his link on the Servant-Leadership Blog. Trevor's thoughts, links, and recommendations are inspiring to this quiet Servant Leader as I try to be authentic.

Thanks to all. It kind of makes you feel like hitting a good shot in golf. For a golfer-hack like me, it only takes one good shot in a round of golf to prevent you from throwing your clubs in the water. With this notice, I feel like I have scored an eagle.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lead Quietly, Follow Quietly, and Quietly Get Out of the Way

I have written previously about the "growing body of work" in support of quiet leadership. The body of work continues to grow. Check out a great post by Dustin Wax at where his insights on leadership are spot-on in terms of the attributes of quiet leadership. I found the entire post inspiring. Here are the highlights:
  • When leadership works, it creates leaders, not
  • But while leaders may also hold a certain kind of power,
    in some senses power is the opposite of leadership: power is what we resort to when leadership fails.
  • There is no necessary link between charisma and
  • Leadership is about making those around us into leaders;
    ultimately leaders get out of the way.
The site is one of those blogs that occupies a permanent slot in my Google Reader. With features on leadership, productivity, technology, and tools, this post is one great example of the learning opportunities at the site.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

It's All About Learning

In my daily work in data warehousing and business intelligence I frequently use today's title phrase (It's All About Learning) to depict the key success factor for many projects. Learning becomes tantamount when you and your team face a challenge without a clear path to success and success depends on your ability and your team's ability to learn and understand the challenge, tools, techniques, process, and technology. Learning amidst these types of challenges is where you might hear me say, "It's all about learning."

I propose that the link between leadership and learning is inseparable. As President John F Kennedy wrote, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." I feel lucky to work in a field and in a place where learning is closely linked to success. I have frequently said, the perfect job may be the job where an employer pays you to learn. Even on the worst of days when your core energy is consumed with office politics, turf wars, buggy software, or unappreciative users, I hope you can still say, "Well....., I'm learning a lot"

I have also discovered that my favorite people to work with are the people that I label as "a student of their space." These are the folks who are looking to master their craft and constantly expand their understanding. They are the constant learners and experimenters and people who are comfortable working amidst ambiguity. These are the folks who don't mind doing a little throwaway work in the interest of learning.

So what are the recommendations for Quiet Leaders? I have previously cited and am inspired by the the work of consultant Rosa Say and her Twelve Rules of Self-Leadership. Amongst this list there are three rules that speak to the importance of learning as part of your leadership-learning plan:

5. Learn to love ideas and experiments. Turn them into pilot programs that preface impulsive decisions. Everything was impossible until the first person did it.
6. Live in wonder. Wonder why, and prize “Why not?” as your favorite question. Be insatiably curious, and question everything.
11. Be a lifelong learner, and be a fanatic about it. Surround yourself with mentors and people smarter than you. Seek to be continually inspired by something, learning what your triggers are.

Leaders and learners looking for more inspiration, opportunities, and links, should check out the 7 Wonders of Joyful Jubilant Learning at the Joyful Jubilant Learning blog. In recognition of the special date, 07-07-07, this virtual learning community, set as a goal to solicit from the world learning community, 777 learning links. There efforts are indeed "all about learning."

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Hiding your leadership

Brent Filson has a great post on Jonathan Farrington's Leadership Turn blog titled "Hiding Your Leadership: The Jersey Joe Walcott Way of Leading". I found it coincidental that I read this link between boxing and leadership only minutes after talking to a colleague about the quiet, "after boxing" leadership exhibited by Muhammad Ali in his book, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey. Let's save any discussion on Ali and boxing for another time and focus on hidden leadership.

Filson describes the power and purpose of leadership that is hidden. The post is very insightful and I personally had two ahaa moments.

One highlight of the post was a great quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu,
As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!

The second great insight was Filson's leadership Imperative where he underscores the learning and teamwork value of quiet, hidden leadership.
I will lead people in such a way that we not only accomplish the needed results but that we together help one another grow personally and professionally.

I also agreed with two cautionary notes by Filson. First he warns that the term hidden has a pejorative side. The word hidden might have a fearful or sneaky meaning. Perhaps using the label "quiet" versus "hidden" helps with this connotation. Quiet seems more discretionary, more of a choice, and not sneaky. I agree with the caution; sneaky manipulative leaders need not apply.

Secondly, we totally agree that this leadership style, whatever we call it, is never passive. It is hard work. In the end, when your team proclaims, "We did it ourselves", it is worth it.

Quiet leaders should definitely read the Leadership Turn post. It is highly recommended.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.