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.