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.