Archives For purpose

The new three-part video series Jump-Start Your Employee Engagement has now launched. Join communication expert Josh Erickson and myself for three ideas in three days – all in four minutes or less. This video series will only be available for a limited time – click here to enroll.

How do people learn to be leaders?

That’s the question leadership consultant and thought leader Robert J. Thomas answered at a leadership academy event I recently helped organize. Speaking from his book Crucibles of Leadership, Thomas demonstrated that simply taking a course on leadership would do little to transform leadership abilities. In fact, knowledge plays only a small role in a leader’s effectiveness, despite the high price often invested in higher education.

Here is a sample of the elements that transform ordinary people into great leaders.

Continue Reading…

I didn’t start thinking much about leadership until I was a senior in college. But it’s crazy how many lessons I can draw from my younger years. Incidentally, one of them was my “gang activity.” I joined a gang when I was younger. Actually I sort of started one. Now before you get too surprised, I should mention that I was probably about 10 years old and the gang consisted of about 3 or 4 neighborhood friends. And it essentially existed in theory only – and only until my dad told us we couldn’t call it a gang and had to call it a club instead. (As a homeschool kid, the association with drugs and crime was still over my head at that point). Nevertheless, here are several things my oblivious self could have done differently from a leadership standpoint.

People Silhouette

Continue Reading…

My first job in high school was working at a small grocery store in town. I remember there were only eight aisles, so it wasn’t long before I had most of the place figured out. Unfortunately it wasn’t very complicated, and when I wasn’t assisting customers in the front, I was usually walking through the aisles pulling the products neatly to the front of the shelves. I’ll be honest, I hated it. I kept wishing I could be working with my brain instead of my hands. In fact, sometimes when I’d see friends come into the store, I’d find something to do in the back so they didn’t catch me doing such a menial task.

Fast forward several years. I was serving in Iraq with the Army. I was proud that my Special Operations job allowed me to work in an advisory capacity with both the State Department and local NGOs. One day I opted to work from the base instead of going on the mission, only to find out that all the soldiers remaining behind needed to help with a special project: sandbag detail. When I tried to get out of it, my leader gave me a pretty healthy tongue-lashing and appointed me sandbag project leader for the day.

How did I get so mixed up about what was really important?

Continue Reading…

If you’ve been responsible for delivering business results for any length of time, you’ve probably hit a wall once or twice with people. Someone’s feelings got hurt, another manager is difficult to work with, company politics create unseen landmines, some colleagues disagrees with you and a couple may be out to get you. As often as not, we may be the problem. Additionally, we humans are the ones causing the accidents, forgetting key dates or deliverables, creating ambiguity, making mistakes and communicating poorly. Getting results are tough enough as it is, before we introduce people into the mix!

Automation has added enormous business efficiency over the years and will continue. But it’s important to keep in mind that whatever business we’re in, we’re ultimately in the people business. Since we can’t eliminate the human element (besides, would we really want to?), we’ll have to figure out how to capitalize on it.

The Creation of Man by Michelangelo Sistine Chapel

Continue Reading…

One of the leadership questions I often hear is this: how can I be a leader when I’m so young?

I can’t think of a better example to share than this month’s leadership profile Malala Yousafzai.

Malala YousufzaiI first heard of Malala when it was reported the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley had attempted to assassinate the then 15 year-old girl on her way home from school, shooting her in the face at point blank range in October, 2012. Her only “crime” was standing up and speaking out for the education rights of girls in the region. After an amazing recovery in Birmingham, England, Malala slowly but surely redoubled her efforts to speak out on behalf of education equality. Her book I Am Malala was released one year after her assassination attempt and she was the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala’s media story has yet to peak, but I believe there are several takeaways from a leadership front as well, particularly for young leaders. Here they are:

Continue Reading…