What if I told you you don’t need to have a great solution for every single problem that comes your way in order to be a competent and mature leader? Well that’s exactly what I’m about to propose. Hopefully it’s as refreshing to you as it is to me. And the best part about it is that it can dramatically improve your leadership influence as well.

Question Marks

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As an individual, it doesn’t take long to realize Alexander Pope’s timeless line “to err is human.” As a leader, it can be downright frustrating dealing with the errors of those we lead. But it’s how we respond to those mistakes that sets great leaders apart.

If someone on your team has fouled things up, why don’t you try some of these responses?

Frustration

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I had the chance to travel to Greece and Bulgaria recently and give a series of leadership presentations to several university groups with a small team of business professionals. The sights, food and people were reward enough, but getting to share our leadership presentations with the future leaders of two countries added a special sense of purpose to the trip. Even better, our message had been carefully constructed to include leadership principles that have proved timeless across all disciplines. Let me tell you more about it.

Mark Miller developed the SERVE model and curriculum and collaborated with Ken Blanchard to publish it in their book The Secret. Each member of our small team presented a portion of the model. I’ll summarize it for you here below.

Waiter Serving Dish

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I’m afraid I’ve come to recognize a serious leadership deficit today in America. It’s probably nothing new. It’s what I call “the fear of the finger.” Not the middle finger, mind you. I’m talking about the index finger. Precious few individuals are willing to risk being on the other end of a finger that could end up being pointed at them. Especially when it turns into many fingers in high profile situations.

In other words, there is a great reluctance to take a stand in ambiguous or unpopular situations and declare, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll be the one who goes down with the ship.”

The great tragedy is that the opportunity for true leadership, the kind that welcomes responsibility and takes courageous and necessary risks in spite of the unknown – that kind of leadership, has never been in higher demand. Worse still, the kind of leadership that takes a stand is exactly the prerequisite to rallying others to unite and follow.

Finger Pointing2

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I recently got the chance speak to several college and high school student groups about leadership. It reminded me of my college experience when the subject of leadership really clicked with me for the first time. As always, our future rests on the ability of the next generation to lead well.

So I want share with you a few simple ideas that all young people (as well as the rest of us) need to hear about leadership. I encourage you to share them with the young people you know – either with this post or more importantly, with your own words. Here they are.

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“How do you get someone to push you?”

I was taking a wrestling class as a kid and that was the question the coach posed as he demonstrated a new move.

“You push him first. Then he’ll want to push back and you can use his momentum to your advantage.”

That may have been the first practical lesson I was given in the art of influence. People respond in kind. The actions we get are often reactions to our own actions. The question is: how do we begin?

Caps for Sale

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For the third year in a row I had the pleasure of attending the Leadercast leadership seminar at a local simulcast location. This year I attended in Daytona Beach, FL with about 80 other local leaders. The event was fantastic, as usual.

I don’t get to attend as many leadership events as I’d like to, but I always take something away from the ones I do. This year’s Leadercast was no exception. These were the highlights for me.

Leadercast 2014 Banner

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Feedback is everywhere. We get feedback from our bosses in our performance reviews. We ask our customers for their feedback on our service. We collect engagement feedback from our employees. We send a work project around the team for peer feedback before submitting our deliverables.

In all of these cases, the difference between good feedback and poor feedback can easily be the difference between success and failure. The implications can affect our organization’s market share, our revenues, our project quality or our ability to be promoted.

Great feedback is crucial. But it’s not always easy to come by. So how do we get the feedback we need – either individually or corporately? Let’s take a closer look at seven feedback tips.

Feedback

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Most organizations have core values. Somewhere anyway. They’re usually posted on the website and probably printed on a brochure somewhere. But do people talk about them individually? Does anyone know them? Are they specific and meaningful enough to make a difference?

At the end of the day, the organization is going to do what it’s going to do, right? So maybe a better question is: why do we even have core values?

We’ve probably all come across sets of core values that were easy to make fun of or were too vague to impact anyone. But well constructed, specific core values can add tremendous benefit both to organizations and individuals. In fact, here are three ways I’ve seen this happen.

Core Values Word Cloud

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Truth: Leadership is about influence, not position.

Authority Influence

Leadership is about one thing and one thing only: influence. Leaders use the influence they have to create positive change. The more positive change, the more influence.

Go into any corporate boardroom, military garrison or government building and you’re bound to find someone who has a title and a position, but lacks the influence he or she needs to get the job done. Even though they’re in charge, their followers resist them at every turn. The ones who stick around, that is. People follow them when they have to… but that’s it.

On the other hand, go to the front lines of any war, the kitchen of any restaurant or the teachers’ lounge at any school, and you’re bound to find someone who truly leads, regardless of where he or she falls on the totem pole. All you have to do is ask, “who is the real leader around here? Who has the influence to get the job done?” You’re sure to get an answer.

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Several years ago I needed to perform a complicated banking transaction on a certain day but wasn’t going to be able to arrive during lobby hours. Having worked as a bank teller back in the day, I knew it would probably prove an impossible request. But to my surprise the bank informed me it would be no problem and they would have an envelope waiting for me in the drive-through.

Another time I was responsible for opening up a restaurant in the morning. When I turned on the lights, I couldn’t believe how shiny everything looked. The place was cleaner than I had ever seen it before. I had to ask around to see who had gone above and beyond.

Yet another time, I needed some repairs done to my car but was on a tight schedule. The mechanic drove me home after I dropped off my car, then called to update me, took my payment over the phone and left my car where I could pick it up at my leisure when my schedule allowed.

Most people are used to getting caught – but it’s usually for doing something wrong. In fact, we’ve become so used to low standards and poor customer experiences that we often expect it. But in each of these cases I shared, the culprit hadn’t done anything wrong, they had done something above and beyond.

What do you do when that happens?

Fishing

Let me answer that question for you. You catch people doing something right. Here’s why it’s so important.

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Where do you send your employees to learn something new? Where do you go yourself?

There a lots of options out there. The best strategy is to take a integrated approach to learning across five broad categories. Here they are.Employee Class Excited

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