Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Quiet Leader Commandments - Without the Stone Tablets

Do you have a personal set of commandments? I do but I don't. I've feel like I try live my life with a set of principles, many of which I have identified in this blog. But I don't because I have never put them onto a list. I'm not envisioning a set of stone tablets; too difficult to modify, but there should be a list.

The whole notion of a personal set of commandments occurred to me when I Tweeted last week that I was impressed with the Twelve Commandments of author Gretchen Rubin on her Happiness Project blog. Hers is a simple list. So simple that you don't have to click through the hyperlink to get more information.

My goal is such a list. But I feel some intrinsic need to keep my list to ten. Here I go:
  1. Always learning, always improving, always practicing.
  2. Be humble.  (Added September 24, 2011 Link)
  3. Stay balanced.
  4. Be resourceful, be a problem solver.
  5. Show vision.
  6. Be nice, be decent, be fair.
  7. Serve.
  8. Show gratitude.
  9. Communicate well.
  10. Listen always.
  11. The best answer is the honest answer.  (Edited September 24, 2011.  Link)
I'm always looking for feedback and comments. Please share your additions or modifications. Help me improve my list.

On a related note, check out Phil Gerbyshak's Ten Commandments of Management on Slacker Manager. Thanks Phil

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Leadership is a Performance Art

"Leadership is a performing art, and you can never be too good at it."

This statement is one of the key points made by Wharton School Professor Steward D. Friedman on his Harvard Publishing blog in You Are a Leader (Really!)

I have some background in music performance and the link between leadership and performance resonated with me. Any performance art is clearly a skill that is never completely mastered.

Music virtuosos never stop practicing. As for leaders, the same requirement holds true. As Friedman writes,
It's the same with leaders. The best ones commit to learning continually, because they want to make a difference.

Selfishly, I confess that my primary motivation for writing and sharing from this blog is to learn. And now, at 6:30 AM I am ready to go to work to practice my performance art, a little more inspired that I was at 6:00 AM. I believe I can make a difference.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and keep practicing and learning.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Education IS Economic Stimulus

Politics is not the theme of this blog. And that is not going to change. However, this morning I listened to Bill Gate's TEDTalk from last week. In a subtle way it intersected with an element of the politics around the economic stimulus bill.

I have watched a number of TEDTalks over the years and am inspired by the presentations of great thinkers and innovators. I couldn't wait to watch Bill Gate's "unplugged" talk about the work of his foundation.

Bill explored two issues that his foundation is trying to address. The first was eradicating malaria. Nice cause and there was one quote in this segment that caused me to go "hmmm." With millions of people in the world dying of malaria, did you know that there is more medical research funding in the prevention of baldness than there is the prevention of malaria. I guess that demonstrates the power of wealth.

The second question explored by Gates was about education. His question is, "How do you make a teacher great?”

In his talk, he cites research that suggests the biggest differentiator in quality school education is a good teacher and unfortunately, our system is not doing enough to develop good teachers.

Like many people, as the details of the economic stimulus plan became public, I didn't think that any substantive investment in school education should be a part of the stimulus package. I'm a proponent of public education but I didn't see any quick economic stimulus from the education components of the bill that came from the House of Representatives. My thinking is changing.

Consider this Bill Gate's thought that I am paraphrasing from his talk.
A top teacher will increase test scores over 10% in a year in the average classroom. If we could place these top teachers into all of our classrooms for two years, the entire educational difference between the US and Asia would go away. If we had them for four years, we’d blow the rest of the world away.
A quick burst of teacher and school development could make a difference for both our short and long term economic needs. With this perspective, my thinking about education as a part of our stimulus package is changing. Somewhere along the line, we need to be investing in our teachers. As I am known to say, "It's all about learning!"

I would encourage you to visit TED for inspiration. It is highly recommended.

Also, the Gates Foundation web site provides links to relevant research on the impact of education.

Thanks for reading and putting up with a little bit of politics. Please lead quietly.

It's all about learning.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"No problem" is not the answer for gratitude

When someone thanks me, I have a tendency to say, "No problem." Not a great response.

Interesting how a new point is etched in your mind in today's Web 2.0 environment.

In my morning review of my Twitter account, I was following the learning discoveries of Ed Sweeney on Twitter. I don't know Ed but started following his Tweets when he cited some of my Lead Quietly posts in Twitter. I could see that he was a student of leadership like me and I'm always looking to leverage the discoveries of others so I started following Ed on Twitter. Thanks Ed for your discoveries.

Yesterday, he cites an article on Juggling Elephants as a good read. I follow his link and go browsing and end up on the Juggling Elephants blog reading a post entitled, "The Phrase that Irks." Sorry for the long lead up to the point but I find it fascinating how dots are connected and intersections made. Now, on to the phrase that irks.

As I have written a number of times, I'm a fan of gratitude. Saying thank you is a simple way to build community. The point of the Juggling Elephants post was that "No Problem" is not a good response to gratitude. As they write,
it helps to get rid of the "no problem" phrase. Let them know you are happy to do it because of what they mean to you. Find a positive way to respond instead of a less negative one.

It's a great idea and a simple switch for me. I'll start saying, "My pleasure."

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly. It's my pleasure.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Disappointing Dogmatism, It's not Leadership

I've been thinking about dogmatism and its negative impact. This thinking started with my disappointment with the dogmatism I saw on display in Congress this past week. In fact, it causes me to yell out "Dogmatism is not leadership!"

The newsworthy display of dogmatism was Congress and their notable actions on the crafting and vote for an economic stimulus plan. I saw dogmatism on both sides of the Congressional aisle.

First let's define what we are talking about. I appreciate the definition of dogmatism as defined by The Ism Book. It defined dogmatism as,
An approach to ideas that emphasizes rigid adherence to doctrine over rational and enlightened inquiry.
I felt that both Democrats and Republicans and their leadership in the House of Representatives were demonstrating dogmatism and not leadership in the past week. The Democrats demonstrated their dogmatism by presenting a stimulus plan that contained social measures and frankly pork in response to eight years of Republican handcuffs. The Republicans responded by their groupthink approach in not breaking ranks to offer a single vote for the plan. It is truly hard to believe that not one Republican Representative thought that the plan would not benefit their district.

In the end, I still think we should applaud the President's attempts to bring the sides together for "rational and enlightened inquiry", even if it takes a cocktail or Super Bowl party.

The country is clearly looking for a plan that can lead us out of our economic woes. I think that most citizens like me understand that the answers are not not clear, they are not definitive. There are multiple opinions and beliefs. The economists certainly don't agree.

I believe that the best stimulus approach will be found somewhere on middle ground. There will be some balance between ideas. For the stimulus plan it likely means some balance between tax cuts and spending.

However, more then ever, we should demand thoughtful discussion and inquiry on the part of our politicians. We don't need politics as usual. Dogmatism is not leadership.

Thanks for reading my rants about dogmatism. It is not leadership. Please lead quietly