Tag Archives: executives

Pope Francis I’s First Moments: Matching Word and Deed

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The world was witness to a remarkable series of events today with the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the head of the Roman Catholic Church as Pope Francis I.  Just two days ago, I reflected on leadership lessons culled from past popes, here.  I’d like to extend those remarks, focusing on the leadership notes that played out in my eyes in Francis I’s first moments as a world figure – in which he succeeded brilliantly, I believe, in matching word with deed (any leader’s most telling task).

Setting a Tone
Biographical reports on the new pope universally remark on his humble nature – regularly avoiding the trappings of his office as cardinal by taking public transportation to work, and living in his own apartment instead of the bishop’s palace.  This humility came through loud and clear in his first action – choosing to wear a simple, wood cross instead of an ornate, bejeweled one.  Most tellingly, before he gave his first blessing, he humbly asked for the crowd’s prayers and blessing on him, that he might be strengthened by those he will lead – servant leadership of the simplest but most powerful order.  (Wishing the crowd a “good night and a good sleep” in the manner one would speak to an old friend or family member was a simple and endearing moment of the same nature).

Drawing in Your Flock
Putting aside the worldly powers of the papacy, it is – in its essence – a spiritual role, meant to draw the faithful to God.  Rather than offering a sermon or Continue reading

Building Confidence

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We’re all familiar with the idea that part of a leader’s job is to build up the confidence of employees in the organization — particularly those just starting out in their careers.  A recent experience reminded me, however, that sometimes we also need to build up the confidence of those who we assume are already very confident: executives and other accomplished professionals.

When Things Get Overwhelming

I had the privilege of facilitating a two-day planning meeting for a group of executives contemplating a rather ambitious project: developing a training academy and certification program that would become the standard in their industry.  Working diligently in a very pleasant conference facility in the Arizona desert, the team soon had several whiteboard’s full of potential curriculum designs and course outlines spread around the boardroom.  As we did a brief re-cap before dinner, I was quite struck by the group’s reaction.  As each person took in the array of courses and materials noted on the boards, they vocalized a reaction I wasn’t expecting: they felt a bit overwhelmed.

I was quite startled by this.  The participants were all very accomplished in their field and prominent leaders in their respective organizations.  And yet, even for Continue reading

Drawing Leadership Lessons from the Harry Potter Movies

In watching the conclusion of the Harry Potter epic last weekend (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2), I was struck by a number of themes that have become visible during the 10-year evolution of the J.K. Rowling book-based movie series.  As Scott Eblin of the Next Level Leadership blog has written a wonderful column on the servant-leadership ideas inherent in Harry’s story,  I’d like to reflect on leadership lessons visible in the making of the movies themselves.

(Director David Yates gives direction to Daniel Radcliffe on the Harry Potter set). Matching management talent to the evolving needs of the material was a key element in the success of the movie series.

Leadership Lessons

These leadership points stand out to me:

Hire for “talent” … then provide them with all the support they need
I wrote several months ago about the unique challenge of casting three 10-year old leads on whose shoulders would rest Continue reading

CEO’s: No Longer Accountable?

More than 40 years ago, Simon and Garfunkle sang their famous lament, “Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?”  Judging by recent news reports, maybe today’s question should be, “Where have you gone, Harry Truman?”  Truman’s “the buck stops here” perspective on executive accountability seems to be sadly missing from the current age.

Did He Really Just Say That?

Truman-style "buck stops here" accountability isn't evident in recent CEO testimony. (image via Wikipedia)

For the past few weeks, the”phone hacking” scandal centering around News Corporation executives has been plastered across front pages around the world.  I have to admit that I hadn’t been paying too much attention to the details until News Corp‘s CEO, Rupert Murdoch appeared before parliament in London the other day.  Acknowledging that he was “shocked, appalled, and ashamed” by the tumult engulfing his global media empire and which casts a pall over Scotland Yard, among other institutions, a chastened Murdoch said, “This is the most humble day of my life.”

Fair enough.  If he had stopped there, it would have been Continue reading

Antidote to Leader Misbehavior

During the past several weeks, we have seen more than our fair share of  leaders behaving badly (see Messrs. Schwarzenneger, Weiner, et al). While saddening,  we’ve all experienced enough in our lives to make it all anything but shocking, I’m afraid.  (Several years back, I had the unfortunate experience of working in an organization whose truly brilliant and visionary but equally undisciplined division leader was not only openly conducting an extramarital affair with an employee, but was also eagerly advising other executives how to do so).

How different is the true gentleman or woman from the poor leadership behavior on recent display

Many a gallon of ink (or, the electronic equivalent) has been spilled in recent weeks pondering the meaning and impact of such leader misbehavior.  While I suspect that most of the bad behavior is the result of ego, power, greed, hubris — or some combination thereof — I’d like to go in a different direction today, if I might.  I’d like to reflect in this space on the impact of honorable behavior by the “quiet leaders” in our lives — the men and women who get up each morning trying to do the right thing, set the right example, and help us see right from wrong, often without saying a word.

Real Leaders and True Gentlemen (and women)

As a baseball fan, I enjoy collecting anecdotes, memorabilia, stories, and perspectives on the game.  My favorite baseball quote, however, actually has nothing at all to do with baseball, per se.  David Cone, an outstanding pitcher and World Series winner with several teams in the ’90′s, was once asked Continue reading

Is “Team Building” Always the Right Prescription?

Albany Medical College - New Student Orientati...

Team building exercises might not always be the answer

I listen to a lot of sports talk radio on my commute to and from work.  Several times each year — especially now, with the opening of baseball season — the hosts will get into impassioned discussions about “team chemistry” and whether or not it adds up to wins and losses.  This got me to thinking about “chemistry” on management teams.

When a management team is struggling, inevitably the suggestion arises that a “team building” event is needed.  Is this always the right prescription?  It strikes me that “team building” efforts — besides often being half-hearted or poorly conceived — are frequently premature, and actually deal with the symptoms of a problem, rather than addressing the underlying issues themselves. Continue reading

Is There Anything Better Than …?

Has it been a “long winter” in your workplace the same as it’s been in mine?  

Do you get as much satisfaction from making job offers as the American Idol judges show when telling participants they've made it to next round?

Here in the northeast US, the blooms of spring can’t come soon enough for most of us. While this is true every year, this came home to me the other day when I realized that even the most even-tempered, easy-going, always-a-smile-on-their-face-and-a-kind-word-for-all people in the office were sniping at co-workers and generally walking about with forlorn looks (or worse). Despite the fact that Punxsatawney Phil has guaranteed the early arrival of spring, it sure seems like everyone can still use a few encouraging thoughts.

For my part, I thought it might be a good time for some reminders of the best things we get to experience as HR people … Continue reading

Excuses Begone: Encouragement for Leaders

This is a photograph I personally took when Wa...

Dr. Wayne Dyer, author of "Excuses Begone" and other motivational books

How many excuses do we use on a daily basis without thinking about them? 

How do these excuses limit our (personal and) professional growth and that of our organizations?

As I was getting in a few minutes of exercise on the elliptical machine on a a recent  Saturday morning**, the tv in the gym happened to be tuned to a PBS pledge drive special featuring motivational speaker / self-help guru, Dr. Wayne Dyer.  Being an admirer of Dr. Dyer’s “positive thinking” philosophy, I quickly became engrossed in the program — a lecture where he was expounding on his latest work, “Excuses Begone!”

** Confession: I was trying to work off a little of the weight I was sure to be putting on the following day during a Super Bowl eating fest!

A centerpiece of the talk was Dr. Dyer’s list of 18 common excuses that people use to rationalize not taking action or striving to improve their lives.  As with most people listening to his talk, Continue reading

Hope Springs Eternal in (and for) Encouraging Leaders

Spring Training, Vero Beach, Florida, 1994, by...

The opening of Spring Training brings with it an annual revival of hope and encouragement

They say that “hope springs eternal.” Given that much of the country is burried under mountains of snow and/or bracing against freezing temperatures in what has been a challenging winter all around, I thought, “What better time for a few hopeful and encouraging thoughts?”

As a fanatical baseball fan, there’s nothing better — or more hopeful — than the Continue reading

Managing By Cliches, Part 2: Let the System Work for You (not vice versa)

Michael Dorn and Robert O'Reilly as Worf and G...

Naming an HR database after Star Trek villains wasn't a good omen

This is the second in our series of posts around the idea of “managing by cliches.”

During the past few weeks, I’ve been involved in a number of on-line and real-life discussions about the merits of various performance evaluation systems.  One colleague described a particular system as being powerful but “difficult to learn and implement.”  This brought mind past experiences implementing unwieldy systems — times when it seemed that rather than the system working for us, we were working for the system (never a desirable state of affairs).

The Klingon System

Once about a time, I worked for a Fortune-500 company that chose to implement “Klingon” as its HRIS database.  OK — that wasn’t really its name Continue reading