Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Penn State: A Failure of Leadership

There is a reason that both Joe Paterno,  former head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lion football team, and Graham Spanier, former President of Penn State University, were fired in the wake of the current scandal: they failed in their roles as leaders.

Whatever the details end up being, the events took place on their watch and ultimately, they are responsible. I think the Board took the necessary decisive action with regard to Spanier and Paterno--but it remains to be seen who else should be held accountable.

This is a poignant lesson for leaders at all levels of organizations. Organizational culture is most often a reflection of leadership. If leaders overlook minor things, soon there will be more "minor" things happening within the organization. In time, minor things will develop into less-than-minor things. Before long, there is a grown man showering naked "horsing around" with young boys at the University YOU are responsible for.

Jerry Sandusky didn't develop overnight. I am of the opinion that the only way this could happen at PSU is because there was a culture that allowed for leaders to "overlook" things that should have been major warning signs within a healthy organization.

PSU had a cancer and only now has the tumor become visible to the world. Perhaps with new leadership, PSU can start the long road to recovery.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Eisenhower on Leadership

Leadership is the art of getting someone to do what you want done--because they want to do it! 
Dwight D. Eisenhower 

 One of the risks of reading this quote is that one could get the impression that leadership is about manipulating people. If we don't go deep enough into the last part of the quote--"because they want to do it"--we will not really understand the power of leadership. To be blunt--as Eisenhower oft was--this is not about people wanting to do things because they want to keep their job, get a promotion, stay out of the doghouse, or just get through the day. This quote is about connecting with those you are leading in such a deep way that the motivation to perform comes from within them--inspired by you. This is what leadership coaching is all about.

Coaching is a technique used by more and more leaders who desire to see their people fulfill their highest potential. It is a not a process by which leaders tell their people "here's what you need to do." Rather, it is a process that inspires people to say to the leader "here's what I can do!" Because the action steps come from within the person being lead, the rate of success is much higher. Because the ideas come from within the lead, the action steps are things that they want to do.

I like to think this is what Eisenhower was referring to...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Time to demand ethics from our leaders!

If we don't demand ethical behavior,
we deserve what we get!
Tonight is election night. It should be one of the most exciting nights of the year. It is the night that each of us has a say in the future of our town, our state, and our country. Unfortunately, many many people choose to stay home. They feel that their vote doesn't count and they are completely uninspired by the crop of candidates that exist. I feel their pain.

I voted tonight. I wasn't happy about my choices but I voted. Here in my small town, I found an example of why people just don't care about the political process anymore--and why politicians continue to have some of the lowest ratings in terms of respect and ethical standards of any profession out there. I blame political "advisors" as much as I blame the politicians. Actually, the politicians bear more blame because they don't HAVE to listen to political advisors.

One of the young men running for office tried to bolster his credentials. I am certain this was on the advise of a political advisor...but I cannot prove it. I just like to think that the young man was naive and trusted an experienced advisor. It's understandable to try to make yourself look as appealing as possible, but this young man held himself out to be a "corporate executive." In letters he wrote in the local paper, in mailings from "the party," and in a debate, this young man continued to boast that he was an "executive with the (blank) corporation." What image does that convey? What would you think his stature in that company would be? What does that imply about his level of experience? That's exactly what it was meant to convey...and it would be inaccurate. Unfortunately, few in the electorate choose to dig any deeper.

The thing is, this young man will likely win tonight. However, I think he would have won even if he hadn't lied (ahem...gave a false impression) about the nature of the position in his company. I would have liked to like him but...

In the end, I didn't vote for him. I voted for someone who probably is less qualified for the job--but who was completely honest about himself throughout the campaign. I am comfortable with that choice. I wish more would make choices like that...

Monday, November 7, 2011

A great quote on Winning--and it didn't come from Charlie Sheen!

Those who have to win, win a lot. Those who fear losing, lose a lot!
--John Whitmore

Saturday, November 5, 2011

LeaderLab: A wonderful resource for Leadership Theory

David Burkus is a friend of mine as well as a member of my cohort at Regent University. Last year, he created a resource that he envisioned would develop into a clearinghouse of ideas and discourse in the area of leadership theory. That site, LeaderLab, has become just that. 
At LeaderLab, you can download papers written by students and practitioners of leadership theory as well as share commentary about those works. In addition, David provides reviews of some of the latest books on the subject matter. 

For those interested in academic works, David and other Regent University students and alumni have teamed up to create a new peer-reviewed journal called the Strategic Leadership Review. This innovative new scholarly journal will feature works in the following areas:

§ Leadership
§ Followership
§ Motivation
§ Management
§ Strategy
§ Innovation
§ Organizational behavior

If you are interested in leadership theory and its current applications, please visit LeaderLab and the Strategic Leadership Review!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


A client of mine just recently reminded me of one of the greatest challenges facing many of the most high potential people out there today: Squirrels!

Of course, I don't mean literal squirrels! I mean those opportunities that seem so interesting and so important that they immediately distract you.
This particular client is super-creative and completely enthusiastic about the potential that exists...and he see's that potential everywhere!
The problem is that things he wants to accomplish get delayed as he becomes distracted by all the great squirrels that pass near him.

You don't necessarily have to ignore the squirrels in your life because they can represent valuable ideas. But you do have to learn to manage them. Here's a couple things you can do.

First and most important, have a specific goal that you want to accomplish. The emphasis is on specific. If the goal is not specific, it is simply a hope. When you have that specific goal in mind, you are better able to determine which squirrels help move that goal forward. It will take discipline, though.

With that goal established, you don't have to ignore all the squirrels. One idea is to keep a pad of paper handy--or, if you are a geek like me, use your voice recording app on your smartphone--to record the squirrels throughout the day. Set aside 15 minutes each night to review the days squirrels and decide what to do with them right then and there. Some will be ideas that you can incorporate right now. Others will be valuable to you some time in the future--create a file for them. And others will just be distractions--toss them.

If you can discipline yourself to incorporate these into your day, you will find that you will get more done and be more creative than ever. If the squirrels still drive you nuts (ha!- pun!), then you may wish to hire a coach to help keep you on track.