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 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.