What the Communist Party Got Right About Leadership

Today’s post was co-written with Brooke Steinke, a student in the Organizational & Management Communication class at CollegePlus. It was great working with you this semester, Brooke!

Three months ago, if someone had asked me what I could learn from the Communist Party, I would have jokingly replied, “How not to run a government.”

However, since then, I read Douglas Hyde’s book, Dedication and Leadership. Hyde was a news editor of the Communist newspaper London Daily Worker and outspoken Party member during and after WWII – in Great Britain no less. Finally coming to the realization that the Communist philosophy is intrinsically flawed, Hyde resigned from the Party but argued that the Communist leadership methods are, in many cases, extremely effective and worth emulating. “Never in man’s history has a small group of people set out to win the world and achieved more in less time,” he wrote. In his book, Hyde demonstrated that the techniques Communism used to create leaders and spread its influence are not “Communist” techniques at all. They are, in fact, very effective and powerful strategies anyone can use to instill dedication and leadership in others.


Here are a few of the strategies that Douglas Hyde revealed from the Communist Party:

Which Stage of Competence Are You?

Everybody wants competence. We want it for ourselves. We expect it from others in our organizations. We demand it from the people and organizations we purchase from. But how do we figure out if we’ve got it? How well do we develop it in others? Where do we even start?

Contemplative GorillaBack in the 1970s, Gordon Training International developed a learning model called “The Four Stages of Competence,” which has also been linked to Abraham Maslow’s work. There’s something helpful about breaking an idea or a challenge down into smaller parts, and competence is no different. If we can understand which stage both we and our followers are in, we’ll be much more useful. Here are the Four Stages of Competence:

How to Measure Learning Programs Using the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model

All of a sudden you get put in charge of building a new training course for your organization. It could be leadership training, professional training or technical training. Doesn’t matter. So you do the hard work of analyzing the learning needs, developing objectives, designing content, coordinating the event and finally delivering the course. Mission accomplished! That is, until management asks for the evaluation results to find out what difference the course made. Now you’re just insulted. After all the hard work you put in, management thinks your course may have been a flop? The nerve!

This may be how you feel about evaluation… unless you have a built-in evaluation plan. In that case, you’ll be ready to hand over the results of your training before management even asks for it.

So how do you evaluate learning programs? In this post, I’d like to summarize the Kirkpatrick Four Levels of Learning Evaluation.

Measuring Tape

The 5 SOF Truths of Leadership

When I joined the military in my early twenties, I wasn’t quite sure what “Special Operations Forces” (SOF) meant, but it didn’t take long for my new community to educate me. Some of our hardcore “green beret” colleagues operated as independent four man teams conducting unconventional warfare operations. My role in Civil Affairs had more to do with liaising with and advising local civilian leadership in foreign areas. I also didn’t get far into my initial training before I started hearing about the five “SOF Truths.” No matter what else we were training on, we always came back to them.

I immediately believed the five SOF Truths could hold up as a leadership doctrine for just about any organization, military or not. Below is my slightly amended version.

Special Forces Jumping from Plane

6 Ways to Change Your Learning Culture

When you were growing up, you probably spent hours sitting in a classroom listening to teachers deliver lecture after lecture in school. Now, as an adult employee, the thought of sitting through company training seems boring, unproductive, pointless and wasteful compared to actual work you could be doing. And if that’s what you think, your colleagues are likely thinking the same thing. The great news is that learning organizations are shifting their methods. But tactics aren’t the best place to start. They never are. First, your organization needs a new learning mindset. Here’s how you can get one.

Adult Learning ClassFollowing are six specific ways many organizations have traditionally thought about training – with a culture “shift” for each one.

12 Takeaways from Chick-fil-A Leadercast 2013

My favorite annual leadership event takes place each May. It’s Chick-fil-A Leadercast. The seminar features some of the biggest names in all of leadership. This year’s theme was: “Simply Lead.” I hope you got to attend, but if not, I’ve included 12 of my greatest takeaways. Here they are:

CFA Leadercast 2013

How I Cashed In on My Own $77 Million Mistake

“Good morning, this is Nathan,” I greeted the caller on my cubicle phone several years ago.

“Yes, this is Bill. I’m a Vice President at First Big Bank. I need to know where our $77 million is.”


“Uh, yes,” I gulped. “Well… do you have an account number?” I was working in the investor reporting department of a major financial institution at my first job out of college. A large commercial property had paid off that week and the payment was split between two separate beneficiaries. As I had entered the $77 million wire into the electronic payment system, I was already preparing my braggadocio about the large amounts of cash I routinely handled in my job (even though this was a special circumstance and was only “electronic” money). But now it looked as though my day was about to be ruined. As I checked the account, my fears were confirmed.

“Um, I think I’m going to have to call you back…” I mustered. Epic. Fail.

How to Build a Professional Mentoring Program

Have you ever been a part of a formal mentoring program at your organization? If so, how did it go? It not, would it have been helpful? Maybe you’ve even wondered how to set up a mentoring program yourself so that you and/or others could benefit from it.

Mentoring Program

In my last post, I shared the basic principles of mentoring from a potential mentee’s standpoint that I’ve learned over the years. But I’ve also built a professional mentoring program in a previous role and also advised clients on mentoring programs they’ve set up themselves. I’d like to share some of the best practices I’ve collected.

Mentoring 101


Telemachus consults Mentor

It’s said that King Solomon was the wisest man who ever walked the earth.  From the stories it seems his leadership ability was pretty astonishing as well.  Imagine what it would have been like to spend an hour with him.  What questions would you ask?  What problems would you want him to help you solve?  What best practices would you want to know about?

I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Jeff Myers in college and he introduced me to the art of mentoring.  My life hasn’t been the same since.  

How to Build a Development Library for Your Organization

Files OrganizedIn my last post I wrote about Individual Development Plans and how you can use them to develop in a professional setting.  This week I’ll tell you how to build a development library for your organization.

What is a Development Library?

A development library is simply a collection of organizational suggested or sponsored developmental experiences that employees can choose from as they consider their own development plans.  When you go to an actual library, you browse the shelves until you find one (or several) book that meets your reading objective.  It’s the same principle with a development library.

How to Complete an Individual Development Plan

Perhaps you’ve heard of the professional growth tool called the Individual Development Plan (or IDP for short). They often prove handy for many organizations seeking to develop employees’ skills (leadership & functional) in preparation for what’s next. In some cases, entire sectors (such as the U.S. government) require the completion of IDPs on an annual or semi-annual basis. Other organizations have a more ad hoc system involving the use of IDPs.


So what makes the IDP so special? In this post I’ll explain what an IDP is, why it’s so important, and then share some steps showing how to complete one. At the bottom of the post I’ll include a link to an IDP template you can use for yourself or your team.

How to Establish Yourself as a Leadership Expert, Part 2

In my last post, I shared several reasons why you don’t have to wait until later to be a leadership expert. You can begin right here, right now, no matter who you are. If you’ve bought that idea, then let me share several practical ways you use your leadership expertise to benefit others.