Saturday, February 16, 2008

Quiet Leadership and Service Lessons from "Fred"

I've been a "Fred" all my life. With a last name of Frederiksen, I've had several phases in my life where my nickname was Fred. My father was a Fred. My siblings have all been Freds. Even today, my son is known as Fred to the point where when we call him by his real name (as we do by habit) other parents don't know who we are talking about.

I've been a Fred all my life. However, authors, Mark Sanborn and John Kotter have raised the bar on being "Fred" with new leadership and service lessons.

First, I recommend the book The Fred Factor: How passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. The Fred Factor, by Mark Sanborn is based on the service and style of his new letter carrier, Fred. Fred the Postman shows exemplary attitude and achievement in his job. His service is outstanding and remarkable. In the book, Sanborn offers Fred as a model for our actions and suggests that our actions should be based on four principles,
  1. Everyone makes a difference.
  2. Success is built on relationships.
  3. You have to continually create value for others and it doesn't have to cost a penny.
  4. You can reinvent yourself regularly.
The story of Fred is a parable of successful service and leadership. I recommend the book. However, students of leadership can also visit the Fred Factor web site to learn more. You can watch the Fred Factor video clip for summary insight into being "Fred."

Bottom line, we can learn much about service and leadership from Fred.

Another instance of "Fred" comes to us courtesy of Professor John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber in the book Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions. In Kotter's book, Fred is a penguin, a quiet penguin who was unusually curious and observant. In his study he notices that his iceberg is changing and his colony was in peril. Fred had no title. He had no authority. He was quiet Fred. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to take action. He picked another penguin, Alice, who had influence and authority and quietly convinced her of their colony's peril. The team of Alice and Fred convinced the Leadership Council that change had to occur or the colony would perish. In the end, the colony was spared.

Kotter's recipe for change includes an eight step process.
  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Pull together the guiding team
  3. Develop the change vision and strategy
  4. Communicate for understanding and buy in.
  5. Empower others to act
  6. Product short-term wins
  7. Don't let up
  8. Create a new culture
Thanks to the quiet leadership of Fred, the colony was spared. The fable of the penguins and their iceberg guides you to acting smarter, producing more, and staying in control through understanding of the events around you.

For students of leadership and change, Kotter's Iceberg Manifesto provides additional insight and tips to lead the change that will be needed to save your colony. For our penguins on the endangered iceberg, this change started with a quiet leader, Fred.

Bottom line, we can learn much about service and leadership from Fred.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly. Be a "Fred."


Monday, February 11, 2008

Leading from Below

Anyone can lead. An element of leadership that I have stressed previously is that you can lead from anywhere on the organizational chart. You do not need a title to lead as I suggested in Leadership - No Title Required. Anyone can lead and you can lead from anywhere.

This notion was validated by an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Leading from Below. The article offered a bevy of suggestions for the leader who makes a deliberate choice to lead from any position in the organization. The article is recommended. Here are a few of my favorite elements.

Make the decision to be a leader.
Make a conscious decision to lead and move beyond your current service role. Make the decision on your own. Take the risk and you'll thrive in your job and get that next promotion.

Focus on influence, not control.
Enlist people around you to work on a common cause. Try to get people to act on their own. Adopt the perspective of the people around you. Don't hoard information. Share it. Keep things simple and clear and win the devotion of the people around you. Think influence not control.

Make your mental organizational chart horizontal rather than vertical.
Ignore any traditional organizational charts. View your colleagues as a focus group and connect and collaborate to solve your teams challenges. Even extend your connections to customers, suppliers and other external to the company. Your personal org chart can be simply flat.

Work on your "trusted adviser" skills.
Try to obtain the role of "trusted advisor" to the people that surround you. Listen more than you talk. Ask questions. Turn conversations into meaningful discussions.

Don't wait for the perfect time, just find a good time.
Don't wait for an invitation to lead. Perhaps look for an opportunity where change is eminent and people are looking for new approaches. Mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations might create an easy opportunity for new leadership.

Leadership can occur from anywhere in the organization and is available to anyone who makes a conscious decision to lead.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Practice Gratitude - Increase Happiness, It's Official

The research data is in. Gratitude builds community and increases happiness.

I have written in earlier posts that a simple thank you does much to build community. In Build Community - Start simply with smiles and thanks, I quoted Carmine Coyote who wrote at Slow Leadership, that gratitude is "major constituent in the glue that holds together groups of all sizes, from a few friends to society as a whole."

Leaders can use thanks and gratitude to start building a community of leaders.

The value and effect of gratitude was cemented in "Practicing Gratitude Can Increase Happiness by 25%" on the PsyBlog. The post cites the work of Dr. Robert A Emmons of the University of California, Davis in his book, Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. In studies referenced in the book, Emmons found that people who focused on gratitude felt fully 25% happier and more optimistic about the future.

Additional research by Emmons and Dr Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami discovered that the benefits of gratitude extended to a variety of emotional, interpersonal and life gains.

How can leaders capture and maximize the benefits of gratefulness. A follow-up PsyBlog post cited Emmons' tips for become more grateful and happy:
  1. Keep a gratitude journal.
  2. Ask yourself three questions, consider someone you know and "first consider what you have received from them,
    second what you have given to them and thirdly what trouble you have
    caused them. This may lead to discovering you owe others more than you
  3. Use visual reminders to remember to be grateful.
  4. Swear an oath to be more grateful.
  5. Act grateful to be grateful. Remember "Thanks begets thanks."
Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and gratefully.