Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lincoln – Complex, Quiet Story Teller

I had the pleasure of seeing the movie Lincoln this past week and came away appreciating the performance and tone of the movie. 
I think there is a tendency to view Lincoln as the ultimate hero.  Maybe it is a notion set by our history text books or even older movies.  I’m not saying that he isn’t heroic.  I’m really suggesting that his persona is too complex to be conveyed in a single label like “hero.”  I think that the movie was true to this complexity.
I have written about Lincoln previously where I also cited the exploration of Lincoln in the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.  This book provides the basis for the period depicted in the movie.    In my previous post  I wrote about Lincoln and his quiet leadership where I noted
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. It is this skill that the quiet leader in us emulates and the basis for nominating Lincoln as a quiet leader.
The movie reinforced two perceptions about Lincoln that I held after this earlier citation.
  • Lincoln was comfortable with silence.  He didn’t need to fill every second with conversation. 
  • Lincoln was a consummate story-teller and frequently use a good yarn whenever the situation called for insight, inspiration, or leadership.
I left the movie still comfortable with Lincoln’s nomination to my Quiet Leadership Hall of Fame.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks for reading.  Please lead quietly.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Story Behind Storytelling

I was intrigued by storytelling this past week.  The idea started when I had conversations with two people who could captivate you with their storytelling.   
The first was a colleague who seemed to be able to talk about family and background as a story with rich context but soft words.  Those soft words weaved stories about parents, horses, childhood experiences, and even children's teachers.  I was intrigued by the impact of those soft words.
The second was a semi-retired (her words) professor who talked about life experiences in a manner that seemed so distant from the Tweet/text message driven social communication that occurs today.  I could have listened for hours to stories about education and family.   She used very rich words and assembled those words into very captivating stories.
Both instances represented styles that seemed so different from the sound bite bursts that deluge us every day. 
As a follow-up to those conversations, I started to stumble upon blog posts and manifestos on the power of storytelling.  Here are to highlights:
I came upon a ChangeThis manifesto by author Jonah Sachs who started that manifesto by proposing, “…if you want to be heard, you’d better learn to tell better stories.”  In his manifesto, he provides ten storytelling strategies:
  1. Know What a Story is
  2. Figure Out What You Stand For
  3. Declare Your moral
  4. Now prove it
  5. Stop trying to Be the Hero
  6. Show the Broken World
  7. Make Sure there’s action
  8. Reveal the moral
  9. Break the mold
  10. Stay On ground level
You will want to spend a few minutes reviewing this manifesto to add this valuable insight to story telling.

Link to Leadership

So an obvious question on the Lead Quietly blog is  “What does story telling have to do with leadership?”  For this question the blog of Dan Schawbel provides insight.  How to Use Storytelling as a Leadership Tool also directed me to the work of Paul Smith who wrote the book, Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire.  Schawbel’s inteview with Paul Smith provided the following storytelling insights:
    1. Start with the context. 
    2. Use metaphors and analogies
    3. Appeal to emotion
    4. Keep it tangible and concrete
    5. Include a surprise
    6. Use a narrative style appropriate for business. 
    7. Move beyond telling your audience a story to creating a scene or event for them to participate in
I would recommend going to Schawbel's blog to gain additional insight to the list.

At the end of the week, the conversations and the reading had me thinking about my storytelling capabilities.  I hope you are inspired similarly.
Thanks for reading.  Please lead quietly.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Leadership Styles are Like Golf Clubs

I  recognize that different leadership styles are required for different situations. No one style is adequate for different people, groups or situations.  On the golf course, you pull a different club from your golf bag depending on your lie and distance needed, an effective leader should have a set of leadership styles in his leadership bag to most effectively lead in different situations.  A recent review of some work by author Daniel Goleman validated my thinking.  
Daniel Goleman is best known for his books on Emotional Intelligence.  His best selling work defined a set of skills and competencies that defines how people manage feelings, interact, and communicate on their way to success.
In his book Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence, Goleman cites the leadership research of the consulting firm Hay/McBer that identified six distinct styles employed by leaders.  The best leaders do no rely on a single leadership style but use multiple styles and are able to move between them seamlessly and in different measure depending on the situation and people. 
He conveniently summarizes the six leadership styles and their application in a chart that I have reconstructed below.
Leadership Style The leader’s approach In a phrase Best used when… Impact on Climate
Coercive Demands immediate compliance "Do what I tell you." In a crisis to kick start a turnaround Negative

Mobilizes people toward a vision "Come with me." When changes require a new vision, or when a clear direction is needed Most strongly positive

Creates harmony and builds emotional bonds "People come first." To heal rifts in a team or to motivate people during stressful circumstances Positive

Forges consensus through participation “What do you think?” To build buy in or consensus or to get input from valuable employees Positive
Pacesetting Sets high standards for performance “Do as I do, now.” To get quick results from a highly motivated and competent team Negative
Coaching Develops people for the future “Try this.” To help an employee improve performance or develop long-term strengths Positive
You can access Goleman’s full description of the styles in the book, on in the original Harvard Business Review article Leadership that Get Results.  Please remember that you can access HBR articles from your local library’s online database. 

The Lead Quietly Takeaway

My takeaway from the article is that just like I have clubs in my golf bag that I avoid because I need more practice, there are leadership styles that require honing on my part to become the Phil Mickelson of the Leadership Tour.  Are you able to move and adjust your style as needed?
Thanks for reading.  Please lead quietly.