Change starts with you

How many times have you ever heard friends, relatives, or strangers in the grocery store telling stories about how things would have been so much better if…(insert long diatribe here about what comes after the if)? I bet it’s more than just a small handful if you think about it in life and you may be prone to it yourself without realizing it as we all can be.

I was listening to a friend tell such a story recently, listing problem after problem with life, whether it is the weather, lack of sunshine, or just too many commercials in between the television programs he was watching that day. I started thinking about his plight and realized that the biggest problem is realizing that change must come from us, not from elsewhere. We can blame others for a lot of things, many of which are quite true concerning external factors that we have no control over, but we must take charge over what we do have control of and make it work for us. This applies to us in general in life, but especially as leaders.

I think of our current economic crisis, much of which we did not have direct control over, but being wary of such events and being willing to make hard decisions to change our business models, our lifestyle, or the number of hours we have to put in to keep ourselves afloat come down to ourselves. It is always easiest to lay blame elsewhere, but we have to learn that we are the masters of our own destinies in life and when change is required, we have no one to rely on but ourselves to start the changes and look for the support and analyses of those surrounding us to accomplish whatever change is required.

This is a more broad generalization than I have used in previous blog posts, but I’m looking for any thoughts, opinions, or experiences from others to add to the conversation and thought a different take on the topic of leadership was due. Always looking for you comments and challenge you to leave one!

Leadership isn’t best done alone

Ever hear of the saying “it’s lonely at the top?” I think about this a lot when the topic of leadership is brought up and I get the feeling this statement permeates a lot of people’s ideas concerning the topic, but if we look at many leaders, we find they did not get there alone.

One of the people I think of as a leader in business that falls into the aforementioned category is Warren Buffett. His success in investing and running businesses is fairly well known, but little spoken of is his right hand man Charlie Munger. Part of success is having those around you that also support and encourage you, in leading and in success. For this same example, one of the things Buffett looks for when considering buying a company is one that is well run. The first thing a person may think of with companies that are prime for acquisition is that they are doing poorly because of leadership, and although this is true for many cases, the companies sought after by Buffett are those that have good leadership and may need help in other areas, such as resources or restructuring-the details.

Surrounding ourselves with others that support us, even if indirectly, helps us continue moving forward in our endeavors and keep us on track. This is especially true the higher we move up in responsibilities because we can only manage around seven people at a maximum, so we need people that can take care of another seven, and more that can take care of another seven each down the line. We can certainly go alone, but human beings are fairly social beings and even tasks unrelated to leadership find us watching Sunday football with friends and family, spending our holidays with friends and family, and meeting up with friends after difficult projects have been completed at the bar. It’s all about who we associate with.

I am always after comments, opinions, and experiences you may have with anything I post and challenge you to write in!

Change really is the only constant

I have heard the saying in different ways, but the idea is always the same: the only constants in the universe are death, taxes, and change. I don’t think there is argument about any of those items, but change is the topic I have been thinking of today.

I read an article earlier that got me thinking about change and other pieces have just fit with the theme today, alongside another blog post about why change is difficult. The article mentioned is about a company co-founded by Michael Porter, one of the most studied authors of business techniques and strategies for the last couple of decades in business school, filing for bankruptcy recently. One of the questions is about how a company co-founded by someone who’s teachings are at the forefront of our studies in business school can end up in bankruptcy court and the following question becomes “does Porter’s Five Forces Model” for business really work if a company of his is now bankrupt.

I arrive early to one of my classes every week, in part because I live so far away from my university, so I have to leave early in case traffic, accidents, or otherwise will slow my trip down, but the other part is that my professor lets her class just prior to mine get out slightly early most of the time and I get to talk to her about most any topic, one of which comes to mind with this blog. We were speaking about research and that little hasn’t already been researched about in some way, shape, or form, and I said I laugh a lot when I see physicists that love nothing more than to say how they proved Einstein was wrong about something on television programs. The reason I laugh is that, in his time, Einstein’s theories were farther reaching than others and he was able to show evidence supporting his theories, but they worked in his time with the equipment he had available, as well as the knowledge he had beforehand from experiments and theories in history. It is only a natural progression that with more experiments, more ideas, and further research, when coupled with new technology, do we learn that old theories were incorrect or only partially true, and one day present day theories will fall in the same pattern. I think of this when looking at the question about Porter’s Five Forces-it works in theory and for certain situations, but we move past with new problems that arise and new explanations have to be found for present situations.

It’s always a matter of change-it really is the only constant. We should never be surprised by it and should learn that no matter the topic, change is constant, but it is especially important and ever present for us as leaders.

As with all posts, I’m looking for comments, opinions, and ideas pertaining to any of the topics presented in this blog and look forward to hearing what your experiences have been!

Leadership early in life

When is the best time to learn about leadership? Is there a clear demarcation point in a person’s life?

I was reading a blog post earlier today that got me thinking about my own experiences with leadership in life. I also read an article in a business magazine a few years ago that said leadership is the singular most lacking skill in the corporate world, no matter the age level and it coincides with the point of the aforementioned article-we need people to learn and practice leadership early in life. In a video post I have been making this weekend, I was reminded of my own beginnings in learning leadership, starting with being the oldest child of the family, and spending time with classes like the NJROTC program in high school. The commonality behind both examples is that they were done early in life.

I have blogged before that leadership requires trial and error (aka practice) and now, later in life, I have realized how blessed I was to have the practice time so early in life. This is not to say that a person cannot learn leadership later in life, but it certainly helps to start early just because it is time consuming to both follow and practice leading others, thus creating more time by starting early.

Easier said than do, you say? You may be wondering where such experiences can be learned early. The answer is ambiguous, but true-it can be learned by participating in most anything involving getting out of the house. I mentioned that being the oldest child was part of my own experience because I was taught to watch after my siblings as an inherent responsibility for being born first, but also mentioned that I was in an NJROTC unit in high school. Sports are another great place to learn and practice leadership because you have to learn to work as a team and eventually be in charge of parts of the team, or the team itself.

I am always searching for those willing to leave a comment regarding their opinions, ideas, or experiences with the subject matter presented in my blog posts. I look forward to hearing from you!

Embracing conflict

 

Ever get tired of being yelled at? Have you ever thought I won’t bother talking to someone that is constantly at odds with me? This situation comes up at work, at home, and most other parts of our daily lives and we must learn from it.

Embracing conflict as a leader is not a natural reaction for most people. Our initial thoughts usually include a rebuttal, something along the lines of refuting what was said to us, or fighting the urge to yell back, but the secret for leaders to learn is to embrace conflict and learn from it. Some of the reasons we enter into conflict with people is that we are all unique, our beliefs are different, or external pressures are antagonizing people in some way. These differences have many sources, but learning where they come from can allow us to help calm others down, but our long reaching goal is to learn the sources of the differences causing the conflict and, in turn, learn new ways of handling situations, handling people, or outright learning new information that affects our tasks and goals.

Learning to have healthy conflict is the topic of an article I read earlier today and ties in well with the aforementioned sources of differences in another article about diversity. We can learn so much from those around us, either through observation or direct questioning, and our task as leaders is to learn from all encounters, whether they are good or bad. The importance is in seeing things as others do to create understanding, but it also fosters open communication with our followers and lets others voice their opinions, ideas, and concerns without the worry of reprisal from us as leaders.

Just some quick thoughts about those little things that we need to always be aware of as leaders or followers. As always, I’m on the lookout for comments, opinions, and experiences you have had with this or any leadership topic discussed in this blog and challenge you to leave comments!

Doing what’s right

Have you ever decided to do something that may not be what others want of you, but you felt had to be done? This is something leaders and managers face far more often than any would like to admit.

A movie I only heard about a few weeks ago came out this weekend that I want to see about Abraham Lincoln and although it will probably have some Hollywood theatrics and writer’s liberty involved, should be more documentary. In light of the recent media attention to an extramarital affair by General David Petraeus that was covered in a values blog post this week, I thought it prudent to write about something we should give thanks for-leaders that do what’s right, even in the face of great opposition.

There are few people I look up to in life that are historical or public figures, but Lincoln is one of them. The Civil War may not have been fought for slavery or equal rights at the outset, though certainly a part of it, but Lincoln turned the war in that direction by war’s end and some have said that he was assassinated because he proposed voting rights for African Americans after the war was over. There was a percentage of the nation’s populace that supported such things, but not a majority, and thus we find the great opposition to Lincoln’s ideas.

Lincoln was killed for his stance, but he took it regardless of popular belief and against the recommendations of advisers. As we lead others, we have to remember that our beliefs for what must be done will not always coincide with those of higher management or even those of some of our subordinates. We certainly can find ourselves out of work by taking a stance against others’ plans, but if it works out, we will probably be better off for the effort, regardless of outcome. We will either be praised or told to find a new job and if it is the latter, then perhaps we are better for finding another organization that fits us better anyhow. Being a leader is not easy, but we must do what’s right in our mind or else we have no right to be in charge of others.

I challenge you to leave comments about experiences you have hard regarding this topic and how you handled it. What we have all dealt with is not completely unique and can help others as they face similar circumstances!

Values in leadership

Have you ever gone on a road trip without planning your route first? Ever leave without a map or GPS device to give you the turn by turn directions for said trip? Being a leader without having your values established is much like going on the road trip without any direction.

I read a blog post earlier today about an extramarital affair that had led to General David Petraeus resigning his position at the CIA and thought to myself “how can you lead others if you are not a good example to your followers?” The only answer I can come up with is: you cannot. I grant that affairs should really be between the couple and there are probably circumstances beyond the public eye that lead up to affairs, but if we are honest with our spouses like we are with our followers, we may just avoid such problems.

Another article I read today was on the same subject of values, but is a great read on how to find what our your values. I cannot overemphasize the importance of finding out what your values are and sticking by them. Different values do work in very different cultures, different organizations, and different countries for that matter, but discovering what your values are, what you stand for, and how you go about them will lead you to the right place in life and help you fit in to any organization that matches well with the values.

When we decide that values are not important, then our time as a leader should be over. We are the examples that our followers should not just follow, but be proud to follow. We cannot ask something of others that we cannot do ourselves.

As always, looking for comments, ideas, and opinions on this post and any others here. I look forward to what you have to say and hearing the examples you have!