Thursday, November 27, 2008

Transformational Gratitude

I'm a fan of gratitude. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let's revisit both old and new thinking about gratitude.

My "Old" Thinking.
It is not obsolete but it is old, at least in blog years. I have written before in Thanks, there is lots of agreement on Gratitude and Building Community: Thank you, as a way of leading, that gratitude is a great foundation element on which to build community. It is easy. It is effective. Why not express gratitude for the work of your colleagues. It will expand trust and opportunity. It is old thinking but, IMHO, still valid.

My "New" Discovery
Gratitude is transformational. Russel Bishop writes this past week on the Huffington Post that gratitude is a key to personal transformation. I'd like to share two of Bishop's thoughts and encourage you to read the full post.

Bishop writes, "given the stressful times in which we live and the apparent instability, unreliability, and fear wracked nature of our social and economic systems, it seems to me that the counterintuitive notion of Gratitude is needed right here, right now, for each and every one of us."

He goes on to write beautifully about the transformational force of gratitude.
Gratitude is a kind of seed that survives even the most devastating of circumstances, one that can germinate with the slightest amount of care. And when the gratitude seed germinates, the grateful typically experience an expansion of well being - emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

The seed typically sprouts in small ways, and yet the observant amongst us will notice that the tiniest sprout slowly grows into something more substantial. Gratitude is not just a seed, but also a form of nourishment that enables us to find our way out of difficult circumstances, to find choices that others might miss, and to craft an improved life experience.

This is a powerful sentiment for a simple concept.

Thanks for reading. Happy Thanksgiving, with gratitude.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Distinquish Yourself and Make it Viral

Happy Thanksgiving.

For your holiday reading, you can download a free ebook, a generous gift of learning, courtesy of author, consultant, and entrepreneur, Raj Setty. Beyond Code: Learn to Distinguish Yourself in 9 Simple Steps! is available for FREE from Setty's web site.

It is a great book and I want to do my part to make it viral. Please download and share. Many thanks to Phil Gerbyshak at Slacker Manager for for sharing this gift to my part of the blogosphere.

Like me, Raj is an IT guy. Maybe this is why the book resonated with me from the first review of the table of contents. It is both concise and insightful.

If you are looking to distinguish yourself, just reading the table of contents provides a motivating list of suggestions and reminders.
  • Learn
  • Laugh
  • Look
  • Leave a Lasting Impression
  • Love
  • Leverage
  • Likability
  • Listen
  • Lead
As Raj explores each "l" item, he offers suggestions, insights, quotes, and an accountability assessment. Even if you feel that you have mastered the idea, Raj's reminders and assessment can bring new insight. The Amazon reviews on his printed book validate my sentiments; it is a five star book.

This is a wonderful gift. Let's make this viral and spread these lessons for a better world based on learning, love, laughter, listening, and "quiet" leadership.

One wonderful quote that Raj used in the book:
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler
Thanks Raj.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Balance of L3 Leadership

Readers of this blog might recognize my interest in balance. I am a strong believer that effective leadership requires balance between ideas, actions, opinions, decisions, and more.

This week I want to give a tip of the hat to the "balanced" leadership model of Marc Michaelson and John Anderson as proposed in their L3 Leadership manifesto that you can read on the ChangeThis site.

In The L3 Leadership “State of Being”: A Holistic Approach, Michaelson and Anderson hooked me on the first page of their manifesto with a very "lead quietly" invitation. They write,
L3 Leadership is more about who you are than what position you hold, what training you have had, or what personality traits you bring to work and other life situations. L3 is based on the fact that personal leadership is a “state of being.” It is who you are, what you believe, and how you behave.

Their balanced "L3" leadership model is based on a three pronged model where effective leadership is based on three attributes:
  • L1—Leading Self: Total Life Leadership. Achieving personal mastery and work/life integration.

  • L2—Leading With Others: Creating and sustaining Collaborative Advantage.

  • L3—Cultivating The Best Place To Work: A culture of high engagement, retention, performance and productivity.

When you link these three elements together with integrity, authenticity, and balance you end up with a holistic model that is not dependent on title, position, heroism or charisma, the traditional attributes often associated with leadership. It is very balanced.

I recommend the manifesto for it's leadership insight and the thought-provoking assessment questions that will get you thinking about your approach and abilities.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and stay balanced.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Team of Rivals and Leadership Style

The book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and author Doris Kearns Goodwin are receiving significant attention as a guide that Barrack Obama may be using to shape his administration. In interviews Obama has referenced the book as an essential book for the Oval office.

The book certainly is getting attention. A Google news search returns nearly 900 listings. And people are now buying the book. It is now an Amazon best seller, kind of amazing for a book that has been on the shelf for three years.

I have to agree. I cited the book in my nomination of Abraham Lincoln in my Quiet Leader Hall of Fame in June 2007. Here are my words from that post:
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.
Kearns Goodwin book is a good read. This quiet leadership style is catching on. This would be a style that will seem pretty refreshing, especially when compared to alternative leadership styles exhibited by the "Culprits of the Collapse," the list of leaders compiled by CNN.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Leadership for the "We" Generation

An article this week in Business Week proposes that recent events will usher in a "new era of leadership that will affect every aspect of American institutions and that sounds a death knell for the top-down, power-oriented leadership prevalent in the 20th century."

The author is Bill George Harvard Business School professor, author of two best-selling books, True North and Authentic Leadership and the former chairman of Medtronic. I appreciate Bill George's leadership perspective and have cited his work previously on Lead Quietly (see Be Yourself)

For this article, George was describing the impact of the election of Barrack Obama. He suggests that a "new style of "bottom-up, empowering" leadership focusing on collaboration will sweep the country."

We have seen to many failures associated with top-down leadership in the financial world, government and education. Given where we are today, a new collaborative style of leadership sounds pretty refreshing. It kind of sounds like quiet leadership.

Please read the Business Week article.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's a Shared Leadership World

Recently,  I wrote an leadership article for the BA Collective, a forum with a mission "to unite the Business Analysts in our community and provide a place where we all can share experiences and continually evolve our knowledge as our role as Business Analysts evolves."

Business Analysts provide a vital leadership role in our project teams.  A role that fits nicely in a shared leadership model.  In the article, I describe characteristics of shared leadership, a leadership model based on the premise that leadership is not a title but a decision that anyone can make.  

Here is the start of the article and a link to read the entire content.

With Opportunity and Leadership for All
Are you a leader? Certainly BAs have a leadership role on teams. But leadership can be intimidating. Consequently, your answer to the leader question might depend on your definition of leadership. It is reasonable to ask, "What you mean by leadership?" 

For many, the first vision that comes to our mind is the picture of a charismatic and heroic leader, a person in command who possesses great skill and authority. This vision of the heroic leader is classic. However, with this vision it is frankly hard for many of us to aspire to a leadership role. Speaking for myself, I am not heroic. Charismatic? Not my style. Can I be a leader and just be me?

There are other leadership approaches. This article will focus on the other end of the leadership spectrum where one finds a shared or distributed model where leadership is no longer the exclusive responsibility of a single person. It’s a model where anyone can be a leader. Under a shared model, leadership is cultivated at all levels of an organization. Leadership doesn’t require a title or authority. Leadership is a choice and as a BA, it is a choice that you can make. 

This article will explore the concept of shared leadership and provide insight and awareness. Second, this article will touch on some simple ideas that BAs or anyone can use to expand their leadership influence. Leadership is a choice. Anyone can lead.

Thanks for reading.  Please lead quietly and share the lead.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

We need to be Leaderful not Leaderless.

I have describe in earlier posts that a larger community of leaders on a team brings balance, more collaboration and greater success to the work of teams. With shared leadership, everyone has an opportunity to lead. Leadership is a decision that you make, not a title bestowed.

My recent study of shared leadership led me to the insight of Professor Joe Raelin of Northeastern University that I encountered in his book Creating Leaderful Organizations: How to Bring Out Leadership in Everyone.

Raelin's concept of leaderful practice resonated with me immediately in his preface where he declares that leaderful practice "directly challenges the conventional view of leadership as 'being out in front.'....everyone shares the experience of serving as leader, not sequentially, but concurrently and collectively."

I appreciate the leaderful paradigm that comes from Raelin's work. I have always been challenged with the leaderless concept that appears in some shared leadership models. Even though an organization or team might not have a titled leader, the need for leadership does not disappear. The term leaderless doesn't feel right. A team still needs vision, relating and inventing, all activities associated with leadership. The leaderful paradigm is a perfect counterpoint that suggests that more leadership, not less leadership, is the appropriate organizational goal. Leaderful suggests that there is a leadership opportunity for everyone.

I intend to continue my review of the Raelin book. If you are interested in the core leaderful tenets, you can get an introduction from the Leaderful Institute web site.

My immediate Quiet Leader call to action however, is to ask the question, Am I supporting and cultivating the leadership efforts of my teamates in order to form a more leaderful team? Are you?

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and leaderfully.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Leadership Dance Requires Balance

Do you do the leadership dance? Do you keep your balance?

Leaders who share leadership with other leaders under a shared leadership model end of doing a bit of a leadership dance. Leaders who do it best try to keep the dance balanced and try to stay nimble.

The picture of a dance came to me after reviewing the work of Deborah Ancona and and William Issacs on the The 4-Player Model: A Framework for Healthy Teams. In this research and study, they provide a mechanistic view of the work of teams. They suggest that team effort is compromised of four core acts:
Move — This act establishes a direction and sets the team in motion.
Example: “Let's build Product X. Product X is the best idea out there.”

Follow — The follow act provides support for the move and serves the function of completion.
Example: “I agree with the arguments you've made. Product X is the way to go.”

Oppose — The oppose act questions the move that has been initiated.
Example: “The data don't support your claims. We'll be in real trouble if we go with Product X.”

Bystand — Bystanding provides perspective and invites the team to be more reflective. A bystander might bring in data from another team, an historic perspective, or some insight about the operations of the team itself.
Example: “We tried some of these same ideas two years ago and they didn't work. What do we think has changed?”

As a leader who is sharing leadership with multiple team members, you will find that there are times when you will lead, but then other times when someone else is leading and you will follow. You might have to oppose if you don't agree with another leader's actions. There are other times when you need to take a break and study and gain other insight. The shift in activities as this occurs in team efforts makes up the leadership dance.

The work of Ancona and Issaacs goes on to suggest that balance and flexibility in the dance activities are keys to healthy, creative and productive teams. If any one activity dominates, dysfunction can occur.

Please review this work at the MIT Leadership center for more insight. But more importantly, leaders should watch their dance steps. It needs to be balanced and nimble.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and keep dancing.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Curiosity as a measure of passion

Learning and curiosity is one of the key elements of quiet leadership as defined on this blog. My personal carnival of learning at Lead Quietly would include these posts:
I was intrigued when Steve Roesler, a fellow Best of 2008 Leadership Blog nominee at his All Things Workplace blog took a different twist, a better perspective on the work of Dr. Carol Dweck that differentiates between a Growth versus Fixed Mindset. I have discussed this concept previously.

In Curiosity, Passion and Leadership, Steve elevates the value of curiosity, by proposing that a curious mind-set that can be used as a yard stick to measure passion. As he writes,
Leaders value people who display a never-ending curiosity for the many facets of the business. Similarly, successful employees of every ilk display a never-ending curiosity that emerges as "passion" in a meeting room filled with people.

What better measure of passion than curiosity?
You can see it's presence or absence in interviews, meetings, telephone conversations, or luncheon chatter. You can display it and you can discern it.
Steve encourages leaders to hire and promote people with passion where you measure passion by sensing their curiosity.

As leaders, we should show our curiosity, it comes across as passion. And when asked, "What's in your mindset?" Show your curiosity and passion.

Thanks Steve for the new insight.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and show your passion, ahhhh, I mean curiosity.

Thanks, there is lots of agreement on Gratitude

I am a fan of thanks and gratitude in the work place. To me the concept is pretty simple. When someone helps you, look them in the eye and say thanks. Then make it a habit. Do it all the time.

The effort can become contagious. A favorite Tom Peters quotation of mine is:
"It" begets "it."

Fact: "Not it" begets "It-less-ness."

Smiling begets a warmer (work, home) environment.

Thanking begets an environment of mutual appreciation.

Two other Best of 2008 Leadership Blogs have also written about gratitude that both inspire and elevate the importance of gratitude.

I previously quoted fellow nominee Carmine Coyote at the Slow Leadership blog, in Build Community - Start simply with smiles and thanks. Carmine proposes that gratitude is a "major constituent in the glue that holds together groups of all sizes."

As she says,
Thanking others and recognizing how much we all depend on support and co-operation makes it far more likely that help will be there when you need it.
Another nominee Steve Farber at Extreme Leadership linked Fascination and Gratitude.
If you're fascinated with [the people around you], you'll discover how to add value to their lives; and if you're genuinely grateful for their patronage, partnership or friendship you'll show them in ways that are sincere and meaningful. Those are the essential elements of a fabulously productive business relationship--or any relationship, for that matter.
Another influence on my thinking about leadership and gratitude has been Rosa Say at Managing with Aloha. She expresses her thoughts on gratitude with Aloha style:
  • Mahalo means thankful living.
  • Say “thank you” often; speak of your appreciation and it will soften the tone of your voice, giving it richness, humility and fullness.

It's a pretty simple concept with lot's of support.

Finally, in a virtual sort of way that can only be done on the blogosphere, I'm looking YOU in the eye and saying, thank you for visiting, reading, and subscribing. I appreciate and am humbled by your participation in my public study of quiet leadership at Lead Quietly.

Thanks again. Please lead quietly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Troubled by charisma, angst about heroics.

I am troubled by charisma. I have angst about leadership heroics.

I am talking about the expectation that there is a link between leadership and charisma and that heroics are a leadership requirement.

The trouble for me reemerged a few weeks ago when Jim Stroup at Managing Leadership described a television interview where a mandatory link between charisma and leadership was proposed by a university professor of psychology. Jim questioned the link in his post as did I in my comment to the post.

I do not believe that charisma is inextricably linked to leadership. To establish my position, I will cite the research and work of author Jim Collins in his bestseller,Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. I'd like to believe the the type of Level 5 leadership Collins proposes in Good to Great can and should be the leadership style to which we aspire. He describes the humility of Level 5 leaders who,
Acts with quiet, calm determination;
relies principally on inspired standards,
not inspiring charisma, to motivate.
Certainly, there is another camp to this debate. There are some who believe that charisma and even narcissism are important elements of the leadership mix. Tom Peters has publicly refuted the Jim Collins position (Here is the PowerPoint titled, Tom Peters Squares Off with Jim Collins. Or: The Case for ... Technicolor!). I respect of the work of Tom Peters tremendously and as another Best of 2008 Leadership Blog nominee, you will find nuggets of Tom Peters insight scattered throughout this blog. You can see why I am challenged by charisma.

In the midst of my recent debate, I was reminded of another post in the Lead Quietly archive which is inspired by another Best of 2008 Leadership Blog nominee, Rhett Laubach. In What do you mean by charisma? I also challenged the relationship of leadership and charisma. I wrote,
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.
I recently revisited the Laubach's Personal Leadership Insight blog and picked up another simple nugget that resonates with me, "If you want more influence, have care-isma." Rhett, it's brilliant.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Leadership is Everyone's Business

I am a big fan of the work of James Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner and the leadership message they convey in their book The Leadership Challenge. I have cited this work in several posts including:
The nomination of LeaderTalk, the Leadership Challenge blog by Kouzes, Posner, and company in the Best of 2008 Leadership Blogs competition gave me a good excuse to scour their blog for more nuggets for our Lead Quietly readers. I was not disappointed.

There were a number of posts under the category, "Leadership is Everyone's Business." One in particular, Leadership is Everyone's Business..including reporters, written by Beth High, inspired me in a lead quietly way.

I am a fan of the notion that leadership is a choice you make and it is a choice available to anyone. You don't need a title, you don't need charisma, you can choose to be a leader. Leadership is Everyone's Business.

The post quotes from the book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer. There are some fabulous, albeit subtle, leadership concepts and insights in the book. One that Beth quotes is:
…for better or for worse, I lead by word and deed simply because I am here doing what I do. If you are also here, doing what you do, then you also exercise leadership of some sort.”
This message is simple, you can lead by doing what you do. It doesn't take super heroics.

Here is another from the book:
When we live in a close-knit ecosystem called community, everyone follows and everyone leads
As quiet leaders we build community to fully share in the experience of leadership. Let's get everyone involved.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quiet Leaders Needed to Keep Companies Balanced

If you are a Quiet Leader, your organization is counting on you to be "soft part" expert. And unfortunately the soft part is not only the hard part, it is very difficult to keep it in balance. You can't do it by yourself. You need a leader mob.

You are probably saying, huh?

The concept occurred to me after watching a presentation on Ed Oakley's Leadership Made Simple blog. Ed is another finalist in the 2008 Best Leadership Blog competition. He is also the author of the book Leadership Made Simple .

The post that that offered me new insight was Management Skills vs Leadership Skills, or is it AND…? where Ed's video presentation identifies two parts to any organizational process, the hard part and the soft part.

The Hard Part and the Soft Part

The hard part is comprised of the processes, procedures, measurement, metrics and structures. Think of your reporting, forms policies, budgets, and estimates as part of the "hard" part. The hard part is comprised of items that are design to control the efforts of the organization.

The soft part is comprised of the people related components. Think of the ideas, fears, excitement, resistance, attitudes of the people. You might add a dash of politics and fear of change to make it a little more interesting.

In the presentation Ed asks two questions that establishes the essential message of this post:

First Ed asks, "Which is more challenging in your experience?" The answer is immediate. The soft part is clearly more challenging. The hard part represents those somewhat mechanical elements that are generally easy to understand and learn. Most of us would associate the hard part with the tools and approaches used by management to steer the work of your organization.

Most will say that the soft part is clearly more difficult. There is more nuance and variation in dealing with "people" concerns. It's hard. It requires leadership.

Ed's second question is more challenging. "Which is more importance?" Both the hard and soft parts are important and balance is key. As Ed states, "It all about balance." There needs to be a balance between Management and Leadership.

Out of Balance
As I watch managers respond to the management "crisis of the day", I see the soft part, people centered issues suffer. Give a manager unending requests for reports, budget reviews, schedules, justifications, presentations, and project updates, that manager will not have time or energy to lead. The balance between management and leadership is lost.

An "out of balance" situation is serious and not uncommon. I've described this before in What leaders really do? where I quoted the work of Professor John Kotter where he said, "Most U.S. corporations today are overmanaged and underled."

Another leadership giant who has written extensively about "overmanaged and underled" (Google book search) is Warren Bennis. Miki Saxon at Leadership Turn wrote an insightful series of posts that revisits classic Bennis thinking about management versus leadership. The series reminds us that the mission of a leader is very different than the mission of a manager. As leaders we must:
  • Do the right thing
  • Challenge
  • Originate
  • Keep an eye on the horizon
  • Inspire trust
  • More of the Bennis Leader Mission .......Click here for the complete list at Leadership Turn.
How do we keep Soft and Hard in balance?
Quiet leaders need to focus on their leadership mission and leverage their leadership skills to keep our organizations in balance. Individually, we strive to grow and apply our leadership skills. But, a single leader can't do it alone.

Quiet Leader Mobs
A quiet leader mob, a community of leaders, can add mass to the soft/leadership end of our balance challenge. More leaders equals more mass equals balance. My colleague Tom recently stated the challenge eloquently when he described the need for a "groundswell" of leader activists in order to keep balance. Quiet leader mobs can balance overmanagement. We need more leaders, grassroots leaders, we need that groundswell.

Quiet Leader Call to Action
Keep the soft parts and the hard parts in balance by:
  1. Building your personal leadership skills. Its about learning and growing. Be a soft part expert.
  2. Use your leadership skills to build leadership and community around you. We need quiet leader mobs.
Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lead Quietly, can you state that in 25 words or less?`

The last couple of weeks I have been fascinated with visualization. And in a typical fashion, I was inspired by the convergence of multiple events. Interesting things happen at intersections.

First, I attended a seminar put on by Edward Tufte, an expert in the presentation of informational graphics. I attended his seminar to stimulate my thinking as it applies to my day-job in business intelligence and analytics. His presentation was very thought provoking. You can visit his Ask E.T Forum for samples of his fascinating visualizations.

Second, I discovered Wordle. I'll leave Wordle undefined. Just check out my Wordle product below.

Just yesterday, I was graphically inspired while browsing the Management Craft blog of Lisa Haneberg. Lisa is a fellow nominee for the Best of Leadership Blogs 2008. Her current post contains a visual representation of leadership. Nice. I was inspired.

The convergence of these three events inspired me to ask, Could I express the core message of the Lead Quietly blog in "25 words or less?" I chose Wordle as the medium. I selected 25 words that provide the basis for themes that I have explored in my 75 posts. Here are my Wordle results.

Click the graphic for a larger image. What do you think? Did I capture the essence of Lead Quietly in 25 words or less?

I invite you to explore Wordle. It is a fascinating tool. For example, I "Wordled" my bookmarks to get a picture of who DonFred is? All I can say is that there seems to be something kind of odd going on there!

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mindset, it will profoundly affect everything.

How do you learn? You are voracious? Are you constantly learning, and seeking new opportunities to tackle new stuff? Do you find yourself saying, "I wish I had time to learn more?"

If you answer yes, your thinking about learning is aligned with a key quiet leader principle and you likely have a "growth mindset," a personal characteristic that Professor Carol Dweck says will "profoundly affect all aspect of a person's life, from parent and romantic relationship to success at school and on the job"

A Sunday NY Times article this past week (7/6/2008) summarized the work of Carol Dweck and her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The Time articles was a good reminder of the Dweck concepts we first identified in Fixed or Growth, What's in your Mindset. In her work, Dweck identifies two basic mindset, fixed or growth. You want to have a growth mindset.

Are you curious about your mindset. Dweck provides this diagnostic test.

Read each statement and decide whether you agree or disagree.

  1. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
  2. You can learn new things but you really can’t change how intelligent you are.
  3. No matter how much intelligence you have, your can always change it quite a bit.
  4. You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.
  5. You are a certain kind of person and there is not much that can be done to really change that.
  6. No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.
  7. You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t really be changed.
  8. You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are. Which statements do you agree with?

A person with a fixed mindset will agree with statements 1, 2, 5, and 7, while a person with a growth mindset will agree with statements 3, 4, 6, and 8.

If you find yourself in a fixed mindset, you can learn Dweck's four step recommendation for changing your mindset on the web site.

Finally, I believe that the simplest, quiet leader interpretation of Dweck's work for leaders is to coach, mentor, encourage, and create opportunities for learning for yourself and the people around you. As Kevin Eikenberry notes in his book, Remarkable Leadership, "we must focus on continual lifelong learning as the cornerstone skill on the path to remarkable leadership." It's really all about learning.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and learn, learn, learn. Never stop learning.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Humbly standing among the leadership giants

I'm excited to announce Lead Quietly has been named a finalist for the 2008 Best of Leadership Blog competition hosted by Kevin Eikenberry at the Remarkable Learning blog.

The contest runs through the month of July, and I hope you’ll take a look at the nominees and cast your vote.

I am humbled by the attention for Lead Quietly. When I started blogging just over one year ago, I set out to explore two new areas for me. First, I was new to blogging and I wanted to get a feel for the tools, approaches, the social learning and explore the revenue stream of blogging. Secondly, I wanted to study leadership and learn about this "new" style of leadership that seemed to be getting more attention and was certainly more compatible with my own personality and style. From these two notions, Lead Quietly was launched.

It has been a fun journey and today, 74 posts later, I stand in front of you (OK, I'm actually sitting at my keyboard) and proudly and humbly accept the nomination. I'm actually asking for your vote.

So, you're asking, we would I vote for Lead Quietly? I submit this top-ten list.

Reasons to Vote for Lead Quietly in the Best of 2008 Leadership Blogs
  1. In the spirit of the blogosphere, a vote for Lead Quietly is like a vote for all of the other blogs that I have cited in the past year. This is probably about fifty in total including over half of this year's "best" nominees. I could not have succeeded with the knowledge and insight of the army of leadership experts who blog and write.
  2. Lead Quietly is a basement blog. I literally write my posts from the basement of my home. There's no corporate suite, no ivory tower here. It's me, my laptop, and my little basement window. And, of course, quite a bit of help from the blogosphere. From this basement position, a vote for Lead Quietly can take you nowhere but up.
  3. Lead Quietly should be competing in the amateur division. It is purely an amateur effort. I may be the only nominated blogger who is not a published author, consultant, speaker, or trainer. I am a practicing leader with strong emphasis on the word practicing. I humbly stand alongside the pros. I'm asking for a few votes to avoid embarrassment.
  4. Voting for Lead Quietly is like cheering for your favorite small market baseball team without money to pay for free agents. You gotta love a low budget effort and Lead Quietly is truly low-budget using a free host (Blogger), free Blogger template, and open source editor. (ScribeFire). I have to confess to the authors among us that most of the books I cite were checked out from our local public library. My only expense is my domain registration.
  5. Regardless of how you vote, it's a Cinderella Story for me. To be placed in the company of Tom Peters, Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner and the entire nominated list is like qualifying for the US Open as a amateur, playing one good round of golf and finding yourself in a twosome with Tiger Woods. It doesn't get any better then this.
  6. Vote for Change. A vote for any of the nominated blogs is a clear vote with a mandate for leadership change or leadership period. My name is Don Frederiksen and I approve this ad.
  7. No commercial interruptions. Lead Quietly is presented in full without commercial interruption. You will not find advertising or other promotion on the sight. I have to make one disclaimer. My book references are done with text hyperlinks to my Amazon Associate account. Total earnings to date: $1.44. Thank you to the two people who clicked through my book links and bought a book. Five more books and I've paid this year's domain registration.
  8. Support education. I'm a student of leadership. It only took me a few weeks to realize that I was not going to replace my day job with blogging. Since that time, my only real motivation for the blog is learning and growing. I love to learn and a vote for Lead Quietly is a vote for education. OK, I still read and dream by reading Darren Rowse at ProBlogger.
  9. Voting for Lead Quietly is a quiet vote in support of the kind of leader and manager that we all want to work with. This leader is humble, a "we", other-oriented person who loves to learn, has great vision, builds community, and keeps it all in balance. Don't we all desire to work with great leaders?
  10. A vote for Lead Quietly or any of the nominated blogs is a vote for the community of bloggers, whether nominated or not, who keep the space moving and churning (Nobody churns better than Tom Peters). Any vote advances leadership as a course of study within the blogosphere. Thanks Kevin Eichenberry for your sponsorship of this campaign and your Remarkable Leadership.
Please visit all of the blogs to learn and advance leadership.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and vote for your favorite leadership blog.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Quiet Leader Presidents Rank Highly

My leadership study this past week found me pausing on a recent post on Michael McKinney's Leadership Now blog. What Makes a President Great was an terrific post where I encountered new leadership insight through Michael's review of the book The Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn't): Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game.

In the book, author Alvin S. Felzenberg devises new criteria and standards for ranking our former presidents. As Felzenberg described in an interview on National Review Online,
What I attempt to do in my book is to provide six criteria and assign each president a grade in each — just as educators do students on report cards. My categories are: character; vision; competence; management of the economy; handling of national security, defense, and foreign policy; and whether they extended or restricted liberty, especially at home.

As I read the Leadership Now post and reviewed the ranking of Felzenberg's top presidents, I was ecstatic to find three Quiet Leader "Hall of Fame" selections in the top 12 list. The Quiet Leader "Hall of Fame" represents my personal choices of quiet leaders who achieve greatness while exhibiting quiet leader attributes including humility, vision, balance, learning, and quiet purpose. The Quiet Leader "Hall of Fame" includes these top 12 presidents:


President/ Hall of Fame Selection


Abraham Lincoln


Dwight D Eisenhower


Ulysses S. Grant

A fourth president, Harry S. Truman, is ranked number 10 on the list and his nomination to the Quiet Leader Hall of Fame is currently under consideration.

Bottom line: Our quiet leader presidents rank highly and this causes me to reconsider,
In this age, could a Quiet Leader be elected president?

Read the Leadership Now post. It's very insightful in this presidential election time.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and be presidentially humble.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Team Manifest 2: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

In a recent post,I announced my plan to share my current study of team-building and collaboration that coincidentally happens to be list centric. Manifest Team 2 is the second in this series that explores the lists of collaboration and teams.

Manifest Team 1 identified the Characteristics of High-Performance Teams by DeJanasz, Dowd, and Schneider.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable is a national best seller having appeared on the best seller/best business book lists of the New York Times, Business Week, and the Wall Street Journal. In the book, author, speaker, and consultant Patrick Lencioni spins a fable about a new CEO who takes on the challenge of transforming a dysfunctional executive group into a cohesive, high-performance team. Along the way, the group explores and confronts the pitfalls and dysfunctions that can inhibit teamwork and performance. I found the book compelling and gripping as a good fable can be.

The core instructive content (the list) presented in the book centers around the five dysfunctions that Lencioni presents in the form of a pyramid model.

Absence of Trust

The first of the dysfunctions, absence of trust, stems from teams unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.

Fear of Conflict

This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets a tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered passionate debate of ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.

Lack of Commitment

A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.

Avoidance of Accountability

Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.

Inattention to Results

Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team.

A List with a Positive Twist

A list that positively states the desired characteristic or behavior would be more compatible with my growing insight into high performance teams and collaboration. Fortunately, Lencioni provides a positive list in his summary of the book.

The members of truly cohesive teams:
Trust one another.
They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
They commit to decisions and plans of action.
They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans.
They focus on the achievement of collective results.
The list seems pretty simple but we know in practice it is difficult to achieve. It requires new team insights and consideration from every team member. And, of course, it takes a leader to set the stage.

Next Manifest Team: 6 Habits of Highly Effective Teams

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Manifest Team 1: Characteristics of High Performance Teams

In my last post, I announced my plan to share my current study of team building and collaboration that coincidentally happens to be somewhat list centric. Manifest Team is my title of this series of posts that will summarize these lists. Manifest Team 1 is the first of several such posts.

A team and collaboration list that I encountered a few years ago, continues to influence my thoughts about team building and collaboration. The list comes from the book, Interpersonal Skills in Organizations. Authors De Janasz, Dowd, and Schneider provide research background and a very concise list of the "Characteristics of High-Performance Teams." Here is their list with my comments and summary:

Common purpose and goals: Leaders need to ensure that all team members clearly understand the mission of the team. It's an obvious characteristic and on the surface seems easy when there is a single mission. However, in my work environment, many team members are engaged in multiple projects and clarity and priority becomes challenging in the face of multiple projects.

Clear roles: Team members need to understand their roles and assignments. And it's better when the understanding includes the big picture, task interdependence, and how one members work affects other members.

Communication processes: High performance teams use extensive communication methods. A variety of approaches (in person, phone, email) are used and updates are frequent.

Accepting and supportive leadership: High performance teams have leaders that function more like coaches than managers. These are leaders who look to influence and not control. This is quiet leadership at work.

Small size:
High performance teams range in size from 6 to 10 members.

High levels of technical and interpersonal skills: The members of the team have both people and technical skills. The team is able to apply these skills to areas like problem solving, feedback, and conflict management.

Open relationships and trust: High performance team develop cooperative behaviors, assist each other, are approachable and dependable.

Accountability: The members of the high performance team understand that performance matters and that members share a mutual responsibility for the success of the team. The perfect scenario is when all team members feel accountable to the team rather than accountable to a project or resource manager.

Reward structures: High-performing teams are rewarded for team accomplishments in addition to individual performance. Team success needs to be celebrated.

One characteristic of this list that seems very compatible with Lead Quietly principles is that none of the "Characteristics of High-Performance Teams" cited by HeJanasz, Dowd, and Schneider recognize a dependency on the work of a project or resource manager. A team comprised of quiet leaders, who have a clear mission and roles, communicate well, and are generally accountable to each other and the team can self direct and achieve great success.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Team Building and Collaboration - Let's Compare the Lists

I like lists. To me, a good list, for example, a David Letterman-like top ten list of the key elements or points of a topic are all that I need to get started. I often pick out a key point or two and then drill into the details. Kind of like, reading a Wikipedia entry where you might pick up a point or two in the narrative but what you really want is to get an overview of the topic and then drill into the "Further Reading" or "External Links" at the bottom of the entry.

I stated my affinity for lists in an earlier post, For the Love of Learning, you gotta love a good list. I like a good list. Two of my favorites that I refer to for affirmation include:

Rosa Say: Twelve Rules of Self-Leadership

Tom Peters - Change this Manifesto: This I Believe

The power of lists also hit my Google Reader this past week in a post by Tom Davenport on the The Next Big Thing blog on Harvard Business Publishing. Professor Tom Davenport is a coauthor of Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning. A good book on the power of analytics and business intelligence as used in winning companies.

Last week he posted Top Ten Reasons for Top Ten Lists where, with a touch of sarcasm and humor, he lists the top ten reasons why we like lists.

My list of reasons might be different (maybe a later post) but I like a concise list that you can interpret as marching orders or a call to action.

Coincidently, my current review of books and literature on collaboration and team-building happens to be list centered.

So over the next few weeks, I plan on sharing these lists as I aim to expand our knowledge of a quiet leader's role in team-building and collaboration. After we have reviewed and commented on the lists, I'd like to aggregate the lists into a single uber list of key leadership elements for collaboration. I haven't compared the lists yet. However, I suspect that we will find some intersecting points as we compare the lists.

Here is my list of list-centered books that I plan to review:

6 Habits of Highly Effective Teams
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork

For good measure, I plan to also review a couple of additional lists that I have referenced in the past.

Also, please contribute any other team-centered lists that you have found interesting. As the information consolidates, I use this information to compile a Lead Quietly list high performance characteristics. Your contributions are priceles.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Quiet Strength, Quiet Leader, Quiet Winner

Tony Dungy, quiet leader, coach of the Indianapolis Colts and the winning coach of Super Bowl XLI, is the fifth leader to take a place in my personal Quiet Leader Hall of Fame.

With this profile, Coach Dungy joins a distinguished group of leaders that includes:
Granted, it feels like an unusual choice to me to propose a sports hero as a Quiet Leader of note. Nevertheless, I was moved by his leadership and approach when I read his autobiography, Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life. He may be the ideal Quiet Leader role model, a contemporary figure who is very public about his quiet approach, his faith, and his success. I'm not alone in my admiration. Time Magazine in 2007 named Dungy to their list of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World."

In 1972, I was a student at the University of Minnesota when Tony arrived on campus to play football and basketball. As a member of the U of M Football Marching band, I watched from the sidelines as Dungy grew as the quarterback/leader of the Golden Gophers. I was a Dungy fan in those early days when I knew nothing of his leadership approach. I only knew that he was a winner.

Dungy reconnected with Minnesota in 1992 when he returned to become the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. I remember thinking at the time as I enjoyed listening to Dungy on sports talk radio thinking how I would prefer Dungy to be the Vikings head coach. It wouldn't happen at Minnesota.

Dungy left Minnesota to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and it was in this this role where his style, unique in the football world, become public and prominent. Let's explore his leadership from using snippets of his book.

On Vision
"The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it. Only vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action."

On his quiet approach
I don't yell a lot. In fact yelling will be rare," ... if my voice at this level won't get your attention, and you believe you need someone to yell at you to correct you or motivate you, then we'll probably need to find you another team to play for so that you can play your best."


"Take Ownership No excuses, no explanations."

Family Balance
In his book, Tony stresses the importance of family and life balance. He cites that football is only a game. But tells the team directly at the beginning of every season, " I want each guy to understand this his family is his first priority."

Albert Eienstein provides a quote that nicely underscores the Dungy approach,
Try not to become a man of success but rather a man of value.
A great summary of the quiet leadership style of Tony Dungy.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Be a good leader. Be incomplete. Don't be perfect, don't even try.

There is evidence that the best leaders are distinctly far from perfect and simply incomplete.

Woohoo. When I look at my personal skills, this is the best news I've heard in some time.

An article in the July 2007 volume of the Harvard Business Review caught my attention this past week as I continue my exploration of collaboration and leadership. In Praise of the Incomplete Leader, is the collaborative work of a group of authors MIT that includes Peter Senge, author of the previously cited business classic, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization.

The article resonated with me from the first read of the summary tag line:
No leader is perfect. The best ones don’t try to be—they concentrate on honing their strengths and find others who can make up for their limitations.
The authors state that it is time to stop visualizing the complete leader as a person at the top who has all the answers. They go on to say that leaders shouldn't even try to fill the gap. As they say,
... the sooner leaders stop trying to be all things to all people, the better off their organizations will be. In today’s world, the executive’s job is no longer to command and control but to cultivate and coordinate the actions of others at all levels of the organization. Only when leaders come to see themselves as incomplete—as having both strengths and weaknesses—will they be able to make up for their missing skills by relying on others.
A quick summary of the author's findings suggests that a leader, although incomplete and imperfect, should focus on four essential capabilities:
  • Sensemaking - trying to understand the contexts in which in which an organization and its people operate. Sensemaking is similar to creating a roadmap that the team can follow.
  • Relating - building relationships within and across organizations. Building a community of confidants who can collaborate to solve problems.
  • Visioning - creating a compelling picture of the future. A leader should be able to articulate what the team wants to create.
  • Inventing - developing new ways to achieve the vision. Similar to the innovation skills required of entrepreneurs, this is more about execution than creativity.
These capabilities are very compatible with my principles of Quiet Leadership, i.e. community, vision, learning, and balance. I also couldn't help but relate the findings of this article to a previous HBR article I referenced in What Leaders Really Do where author John Kotter proposed distinct differences between leadership and managment.

Once again, we quiet leaders are going to disappoint people around us who feel that we should have all of the answers. In fact, I shouldn't even try. Instead we should focus on sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing.

One final thought for Quiet Leaders
You know how one might struggle in an employment interview when the question is, "What is your biggest weekness?"

The standard recommendation for this response was to either present a weakness that was inconsequential, e.g. I am addicted to brushing my teeth, or present a weakness that you could turn into a positive, e.g. I'm a workaholic.

Well, now quiet leaders have a response.

Hiring manager: "What is your biggest weakness?"

Quiet Leader: "I am imperfect and have given up trying to be perfect. Fortunately, there is research that says that I am a better leader because of it. I forces me to "cultivate and coordinate the actions of others."

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and woohoo for imperfection.

June 2008: I humbly ask for your support in the Best Leadership Blogs 2008 competition. Here are the top ten reasons why you should vote for Lead Quietly. Thank you.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Art of Balance, the Art of Leadership.

In leadership, balance is critical,
but balance is hard.

Balance is an art,
perhaps art aids balance.

I've written previously about the importance of balance in leadership. Lead Quietly's carnival of balance includes the following posts from our archive:

Keep it balanced, in 3D where I implore leaders to strike a three dimensional balance between Business, Leadership, and Personal Dimensions.

The Maturity and Balance of Quiet Leadership that describes the role of maturity as you strive to maintain balance.

Balance like Obama - A Lesson in Leadership Balance. Although, not a political endorsement, in this post I admire the statements made by Barrack Obama about balance and the challenge of balance, a challenge that exists in politics, business, and life. Balance is hard.

This past week a friend sent me an article that appears in the Academy of Management Learning & Education, December 2006 entitled, The Arts & Leadership: Now That We Can Do Anything, What Will We Do?

In the article, author Nancy Adler of McGill University proposes that the positive influence of the arts on leadership and business is significant and critical. Here are some citations that I found insightful.
The time is right for the cross-fertilization of the arts and leadership.

The scarce resource is innovative designers, not financial analysts.

Constant, intuition-based innovation is required to respond to discontinuous change; without it, no business can succeed in the 21st century....Actors, dancers, and musicians—performing as ensembles—have developed team-based collaborative skills to a much greater extent than have most managers.

As the business environment more frequently calls upon managers to respond to unpredicted and unpredictable threats and opportunities, the ability to improvise increasingly determines organizations’ effectiveness. "Managers and management students don’t understand how to create on cue, how to innovate reliably on a deadline. . . . artists are much better at this
The arguments that Adler makes are pretty compelling.

OK, let me confess, I am a student of the arts. My undergraduate degree is in Music Education, I was a music teacher in my first career. Despite the fact that currently I am pretty inactive musically, I have always thought that my music background brought creativity, dimension and balance to my thinking and work. Adler's article drew additional links between arts and leadership and management. It gives me cause to embrace the impact that music has had in my life.

It also causes me to value what my artistic coworkers and teammates bring to my team and organization.

It reminds me of a phrase I used to tell the parents of my music students, "It's never too late to learn music."

And finally, this insight motivates me to continue the reminders that I have to make to my children to practice their music.

Art adds wonderful balance to leadership and business.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Nice pays, winners don't punish.

An essential premise of this blog is that leadership does not need to include fist-pumping tirades, clipboard smashing halftime speeches, or shout in your face style of motivation. In fact, 21st century leadership should be based on authenticity, maturity, vision, learning and, in general, being nice.

I have written previously about the benefits of nice. Stronger community and effective collaboration are based on simple acts like gratitude and trust. We want to associate with nice people and communities built on niceness feel better suited for collaboration.

Some leaders might say that leadership and nice are incompatible. Nice is the Rodney Dangerfield element of leadership. The authors of the book, The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness state the perception very clearly when they write:
..nice has an image problem. Nice gets no respect. To be labeled “nice” usually means the other person has little else positive to say about you. To be nice is to be considered Pollyanna and passive, wimpy, and Milquetoast. Let us be clear: Nice is not naive. Nice does not mean smiling blandly while others walk all over you. Nice does not mean being a doormat. In fact, we would argue that nice is the toughest four-letter word you’ll ever hear. It means moving forward with the clear-eyed confidence that comes from knowing that being very nice and placing other people’s needs on the same level as your own will get you everything you want.
My recent exploration on leadership and collaboration led me to a recent study conducted at Harvard University on the power of nice or, more specifically, the incentive value of cooperation. A post last week at the Freakonomics blog brought the research to my attention.

In the study, the Prisoner's Dilemma was posed between participants. The Prisoner's Dilemma is the game theory situation that forces a choice between cooperating or betraying another player. Think of any episode of "Law and Order" on television where police detectives pit one suspect against another suspect to gain a confession or incrimination.

The Harvard study, added financial incentives or disincentives for every choice, whether, cooperation or punishment. The study's results showed a negative correlation between punishment and high payoff. This is summarized with the notion that nice and cooperation pays and winners don't punish. The research document found in Nature states, "winners do not use costly punishment, whereas losers punish and perish"

I have a tendency to respond, "So, what's new?" This is not new information. As the wise say, "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar." Nevertheless, the research provides useful validation and public attention. The Associated Press news release on the research was titled, "It Pays To Play Nice." Check out how many news sources picked up the story with this Google search.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and be nice.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beyond Community to Collaboration and Collective Intelligence

I have previously written on the importance of building community in our team environments. Several posts have focused on community building. For example:

Building Community - Trust Begets Trust
Cites the work of Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge where the authors identify trust as a foundation for community and teamwork.

Building Community: Thank you as a way of leading
Proposes gratitude as an easy and remarkably powerful step in building the type of community that is essential for successful teams.

Building Community with Giving
Suggests that giving and service are key ingredients to building community across teams.

I stand by my previous work. Community is important but as a friend of mine suggests, simple community, as described in my previous posts, is "bumper sticker" material. The real objective for teams is to move beyond community to collaboration, collective action, and collective intelligence . Community might be part of the foundation but your real intent is to lead your team to great collaborative accomplishment and creativity beyond the capabilities of a single individual.

In future weeks, I plan to focus my attention on collaboration, collective action, and collective intelligence. I intend to share the findings of my journey with my fellow quiet leaders.

One of the stops in my journey this past week validated the importance of collaboration for the modern organization and the leadership that is required in order to foster collaboration. Linda Dunkel and Christina Arena in the white paper, Leading in the Collaborative Organization describe the importance,

Collaborative leadership is at the center of an important shift in a business world increasingly moving away from autocratic leadership to more decentralized models.....collaboration is an essential tool for the new kind of business leader — the facilitative leader — one who engages relevant stakeholders in solving problems collaboratively and works to build a more collaborative culture in his or her organization or community.

In their work, Dunkel and Arena also dispel the common myths of collaboration. They refute four myths:

  1. Collaboration slows everything down. They maintain that the prework and consensus that naturally accompanies collaboration reduces churn and roadblocks and will speed innovation and time to market.
  2. Collaboration makes leaders soft or weak. Collaborative leaders actually share power and recognize that the best decisions are "often made with the input of others with specialized expertise."
  3. Collaboration cannot be taught. "If people embrace the underlying assumption that collaboration is valuable and desirable, then the behaviors and methods for collaborating can be taught."
  4. Collaboration can't be sustained. The authors recognize several high and sustained growth companies that cultivate collaboration. Companies like IKEA, Starbucks, and Eileen Fisher are recognized for the collaborative environments.
I'd like to reuse a great quotation from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu that speaks to the relationship between collaborative action and leadership,
As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.... When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!
I hope that Lead Quietly readers will collaborate with me on this study. Please comment and contribute.

Thanks for reading. Please collaborate and lead quietly.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Balance like Obama - A Lesson in Leadership Balance

I don't intend to use this blog as a political platform. My mission has not changed since my first post when I wrote, "I am writing this blog to start conversation and sustain study about quiet leadership."

Nevertheless, I was enlightened this past week as I listened to Barack Obama talk about balance in his book The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.

Balance is one of the key elements of quiet leadership. As I write in Keep it balanced, in 3D:
The concept of Quiet Leadership includes the the notion of "balance." My vision of balance is multifaceted where balance applies to many elements of life, work and leadership. This includes, for example, the balance of work and personal life, the balance between individual needs and organizational needs, the balance of opinions that need to occur within teams, the balance required to moderate disagreement. A quiet leader strives to keep it balanced.

In his book, Obama describes balance in the same light.
Search the book and you will find 15 references to "balance." Often his discussion describes the challenge of "finding the right balance." He describes that ordinary citizens are "waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism." He talks about finding the right balance between national security and individual rights. He recognizes that it is not easy, "finding the right balance in our competing values is difficult."

Perhaps the most insightful statement about balance and leadership is the leadership action of "maintaining within himself the balance between two contradictory ideas that we must talk and reach for common understandings."

On the other extreme,the opposite of balance, is absolutism. Obama cites the negative impact that absolutism, i.e. a lack of balance, has had in our current politics. Absolutism suggests that values combined with power, don't allow balance or compromise. Balance is lost when "ideological minorities seek to impose their own version of absolute truth"

What is balance? Somewhere between balance and absolutism is the place where both passion and reason exist. As a leader, you need to make sure that you hear and recognize the passion of the people around you and encourage reason in order to foster the moderation that can bring balance to your team's actions.

I find that the words of Khalil Gibran in The Prophet nicely emphasize the importance of balance between passion and reason.
Your reason and your passion are the rudder.. and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to it’s own destruction.

Once you recognize this place where passion and reason mingle, the real work begins for leaders. Often there is no easy answer. Balance is hard but the first step is to recognize the importance of balance. This may be the primary principle that I gleaned from Obama's book. That is not a political statement.

Comments are always welcome.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.