Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Frank (Sinatra) Lesson for Leaders

 |  Leadership

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Today’s post is an updated repeat of an earlier post. I think it will become an annual tradition on this, the anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra (Dec 12, 1915).

I’m a huge fan of Frank Sinatra. I’ve been listening to his music for years. I love the songs. I love the voice. Most of all I love the attitude. Many years ago when I was sitting at a job I knew was taking me nowhere I dreamt up my transition, my steps into a new way of living life. I was listening to Sinatra, Live at The Sands. I remember reading about his now famous gatherings on stage in the wee small hours of the night with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis. They never called themselves “The Rat Pack.” They called themselves “The Summit” and their times together their “Summit meetings.”

As I reflect on those performances I see two important characteristics that are relevant for all of us. One, these men were extremely good at what they were doing. Their level of performance was high. Second, they appeared to gain extraordinary fulfillment from what they were doing. I think the audience was just lucky to be in the room, but they weren’t very necessary to the proceedings.

We all have a “Summit,” a place where our high performance intersects with extraordinary personal fulfillment. We have a right and a responsibility to find that Summit, reach for it, get there and stay there. As leaders we want to be leading from our Summit and creating conditions for those around us to find and reach their own Summits in their work. If we or they aren’t living and working at the Summit, you can be sure that neither you or they are fully engaged. We owe it to ourselves and to those around us to find and reach our Summit. It might require some modest adjustments to the status quo. It might require radical change.

Whichever the case may be, we have to own our reality and go for it. As I’ve said in earlier posts. In all things we have to go to the edge, push farther, and repeat. What about you? Where is your “Summit?”

Happy Birthday, Frank! And thanks for the inspiration!

Nelson Mandela – A Lesson in Living and Leading

 |  Leadership

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I’m a little late in offering a reflection about Nelson Mandela. I have needed the time for there is much to reflect upon. Like Lincoln and Gandhi, Mandela is a man for all time. His life offers lessons in a number of domains. He was politically astute to be sure. The way he endured horrendous treatment and years of captivity are a case study in emotional self-management and resilience. The ease with which he set down his past and lead his people and his country through a tenuous transition to full democracy reveals to me a deep spirituality of non-attachment and love for others that is worthy of praise and emulation.

Because of these truths about Nelson Mandela, I want to reflect on his life more than his passing. To try to capture the totality of his life in a blog post would be arrogant and foolish. With your indulgence, I will try to express a couple thoughts that regular folks like you and me might try to emulate in our work as leaders. There are three things that Madiba (his clan name) did as a leader to which we would do well to pay attention.

He communicated with clarity of purpose. He had a vision – a dream if you will – for his people and his country. In the face of many who wanted retribution or revenge, he adhered to his vision and kept communicating over and over again the way forward that would mean real freedom for all the people of South Africa.

He created an atmosphere of inclusion.  He intentionally designed a way forward for South Africa that asked people to lay down their desires for revenge and retaliation and to take up the work of reconciliation. At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela held in South Africa today, President Obama remarked, ““It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts.”

He encouraged people to be their best selves and not give in to hatred or fear. He was quick to smile and reach out his hand. By his presence and by his example, he challenged people to better themselves and engage the world to make it better. And like the prophets of old his challenge was balanced with a message of hope. He believed that external freedom is pointless if we cannot be free inside.

I was fortunate enough to see Nelson Mandela when he came to the US on a speaking tour in 1990 and then visit South Africa for work in the early 2000s. His words, like his life and accomplishments as leader of South Africa, were inspiring to me. His life will remain a lesson in living and leading for those who want.  In his remarks today, President Obama said that we would not see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. I hope that’s not the case. That would make Mr. Mandela quite sad. If we communicate with clarity, create an atmosphere of inclusion, and call our people to be their best (and give them what they need to do that) we are on the right path.

“Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”

Leadership is Not All “Get er done.”

 |  Coaching, Leadership

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“Don’t just stand there! Do something!” We’ve all heard this or said this to someone at some time in our lives. It’s a sign of our need to “do.” We have a preference for action. As a species we are homo completus. We like to get stuff done, tick, the box. We are doers. This provides us a sense of accomplishment. As leaders this can be a double-edged sword. We need to get things done. We have to drive the business forward. And, leadership is not all “get er done.”

We need to pay as much attention to who we are as what we do. We could stand a bit more homo reflectus energy. We could all benefit from being a bit more reflective and intentional when it comes to how we are living and how we are leading. Imagine if instead of leading by default, we gave some thought each day to what it would look like for us to lead ‘by design.’

Everything, including our lives, produces what it is designed to. What have you designed this year? Is your design now a default? Does what used to work for you no longer ‘get er done.’?

As the year winds down I normally give the leaders I coach some questions to spark their reflection on the year past. This year there are only two.

What have you done this year that you are proud of?

What have you done this year that you’re not so proud of?

“Don’t just do something!  Stand (or sit) there.” And consider those questions for a while. I’ll check back soon with a couple more questions to get you thinking about next year, about leading (and living) ‘by design.’