Showing posts with label confidence in leaders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label confidence in leaders. Show all posts

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The "Buzz" About Leadership

At a recent presentation I made in Orange County, a woman asked about the importance of charisma in leadership.  She thought I had sort of an automatic advantage because of my height and size (6'4" and 240 lbs).  To some extent, she's onto something.  Research suggests that when it comes to communication, words only account for 7% of the conveyed message, while 38% is manner, tone, and voice, and the remaining 55% are the accompanying non-verbals, body language, etc. 

So yes, we inspire and motivate people to action through the power of ideas, i.e. what we say, but apparently even more so with how we say it and how we connect with others.  What can we take away from this? 

1.  If email is your preferred communication style, then be sure that much of the message can be / will be lost.  Even if you use ALL CAPS for voice and tone, the lack of non-verbals makes it difficult to ensure that the message is received the way you intended.  Face to face is always best.

2.  If you have a strong message and are frustrated with why it doesn't seem to resonate with others, perhaps you need to work on the other 93%!  Take a communication class or join a group like Toastmasters to improve how you say what you say.

3.  Consistency matters.  To me, charisma is not just smooth talk, but rather alignment between what you say, what you do, and how you say it.  In other words, try saying a positive message, with strong tone and voice, but your hands in your pockets and head down, staring at your shoes.  The message will still be lost.  Charisma is gained by those who can leverage words, tone, and body language together.  Charisma in leadership is leveraged by those whose actions align with their words, compelling people to action.  You want a positive, inspirational message?  Be positive and inspirational!  You want people to be motivated to bold, aggressive action?  Be motivated, bold, and aggressive!  In other words, make sure people see your action.

So now, an insider secret.  Take a look at the little blue guy at the top of this article, inspiring and rallying his troops.  He is leveraging a scientific formula that I read about this month.  It seems that the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business found that there was something we (okay...mostly men) can do to appear more dominant, confident and masculine -- as well as appear 4 years older, 1 inch taller, and 13% stronger.  All good things.  What is it?

Yep.  Just like the blue guy!  A shaved head apparently communicates the non-verbal communication of confidence.  You see, I'm really only 5'9" and 160 pounds.  I just look bigger now that I have given up fighting my cursed genetics.  Thanks Mom!  Interestingly, the same study also found that men with shaved heads were thought to be considerably less attractive.  I choose to ignore that part and attribute it to bad data.  Haha!

Okay, so this particular technique may only help half our readership here!  But for all of us, the importance of aligning what we say with how we say it and how we live it is absolutely vital.  If we want those we lead to have confidence in us, we need to have confidence in ourselves.  Speak with passion.  Look people in the eye.  Be strong.  Apparently it is not the fancy words that inspire people to follow.  It's conviction about purpose and communicating that from every pore!  It's just that for some of us, like the bald blue man...those pores are a little less...encumbered!


Communication with purpose is one of the elements of the "Leadership Excellence Course & Executive Coaching" programs that I lead through Academy Leadership.  These programs in Southern California are highly impactful, action-oriented, small-group sessions targeting leaders and project managers.  PMPs receive 36 PDUs for completion.

Upcoming sessions in Southern California for 2013 include:

12-14 March        San Diego
2-4 April              Orange County (Irvine)
7-9 May               Los Angeles
11-13 June           San Diego
25-27 June           Orange County (Irvine)
9-11 September    Los Angeles
7-9 October          San Diego
4-6 November      San Diego
9-11 December    Orange County (Irvine)

To get a brochure for this program, go hereContact me for any questions, group rates, or discount codes!  I'd love to see you in these programs.

I'll bring the clippers!

That's Leader Business!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Leader Business Question

Would you rather have a leader who is nice, but incompetent, who is mean, yet fully capable?

I recently came across this question in a book I've been reading and it got me thinking. Surely we have all witnessed these diverse leadership styles and personalities.

On the one hand you have everyone's favorite person; someone who makes the team feel good; an encouraging, likable, friendly, approachable leader. And yet they know absolutely nothing. They lack the necessary technical underpinnings to guide the team. Strategy, crisis management, and mission accomplishment are foreign concepts. The very thought of this person ever making a decision sends shivers down your spine. And in a best case scenario, they never have to do so. Staff meetings are fun...but unproductive. These leaders are enjoyable to be around, they generally leave you alone, and they make you feel good.

On the other hand, you have the mean old cuss, the abrasive, spiteful boss who is just impossible to be around. But they know what they are doing. They are absolutely competent with a brilliance that is universally recognized and, at least by those who DON'T work for them, they are great leaders. The reality is often something completely different. They treat people horribly and think little of things like counseling, mentoring, or training. Communication is almost non-existent and empowerment is not in the mix for these abusive bosses.

While these sound like leadership extremes, we see them all the time, don't we? Nice but incompetent leaders who should never have gotten to their positions. Same for mean but capable leaders who know what they are doing but make everyone's life miserable. Both of these types make us question how some leaders get as far as they do.

So which do you prefer? And how do you manage your boss under either of these conditions? Since we don't get to choose our leaders (well...except when we vote for politicians...and when we accept new employment!), we need to be able to operate under either condition. We still have to get our work done and accomplish the mission. We have to protect our teammates from the challenges created by both styles. And we have to learn what we can from either extreme.

What are your experiences with either one? Add your comments and let's discuss! And don't say you prefer one who is nice AND competent. That's too easy! I'm looking forward to your thoughts. That's Leader Business!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Competent Courage from an American Hero

By now we are all familiar with his story. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III skillfully landed a US Airways jet in the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 people aboard the plane. A former fighter pilot for the US Air Force, "Sully" demonstrated the sort of courage under pressure, in a time of real crisis, that truly warrants the claims of "American Hero." He landed the plane, then calmly walked up and down the aisle twice to ensure all passengers were off before exiting himself.

This sort of leadership, this demonstration of courage and competence in a time of crisis, is worthy of our praise and surely the sort of thing we could use more of now -- in politics, in our businesses, schools, and communities, and on our planes! With the turmoil and chaos we see in our world today, we could sure use more leaders like "Sully."

Prepare for impact. While those were "Sully's" words as the plane headed toward the Hudson, they were also what it took for him to successfully land on the river. He had prepared his entire life for that event. He has flown for nearly 40 years and logged over 19,000 flight hours, first with the Air Force (F-4s and gliders in the 1970s, the latter certainly being fortuitous that day), then almost 30 years with US Airways. He served on a board that investigated aircraft accidents. He is President of an aircraft safety company. When he returned to his hometown, he simply stated that he was "doing the job he was trained to do." Preparation for worst-case scenarios, training, and experience all count for something and undoubtedly enabled "Sully" to do what he did. In a time of crisis, training is not what we cut to help us keep the plane flying, but what we must continue to do to keep the aircraft in the air...or to bring it safely to the ground.

Communicate transparently. Upon impact with the birds, "Sully" immediately radioed the air control tower that his plane had suffered a double bird strike, taking out both engines. With a calmness that relayed confidence, he told passengers to "brace for impact." While we have not heard the cockpit communications, I have no doubt that he maintained continuous contact with his crew, his co-pilot, other aircraft, and the control tower. Communication in a time of crisis is critical. People need to understand what we know, when we know it. They also need to believe in the competence of their leaders, that they will continue to be updated on the situation, without painting false, rosy pictures. When the plane is going down, that is not the time to tell people to enjoy the in-flight movie. Communication during crisis prevents chaos.

Hold it steady during the crash. While the headlines read -- Jet crashes in the Hudson, they should have read -- Jet lands in the Hudson. In a time of crisis, the first task is to stop the bleeding. Land the plane. Get the team under control, survive the impact, and go from there. "Sully" knew he could not make it safely to any of the local airports and felt that his best option was to do a water landing. While the risks of that maneuver surely had their own safety implications (it was near freezing in New York City, bridges crossed the river in multiple spots, etc.), "Sully" felt that it was his best option in order to bring the plane down. Getting people off the plane would be his second priority. The first one, and any leader's principal concern during a time of crisis, was to land the plane.

Nobody panics. Control the chaos. No doubt, people took comfort in the tone of "Sully's" voice and the controlled decent to the river. No sharp turns, no rough dives that might signal a lack of confidence. Then, when the plane came to a stop, "Sully" calmly walked up and down the aisle (twice!) to ensure that all passengers had exited. Trust your skills, know your equipment, operate the way you train. In a time of real crisis, leaders control the chaos.

This is a true American hero. I love "Mrs. Sully's" comments at his welcome home ceremony: "I knew when I married Sully the one thing for sure was that he was the most honorable man I knew," she beamed. "I have always known him to be an exemplary pilot, I knew what the outcome would be that day because I knew my husband. But mostly for me, he's the man that makes my cup of tea every morning." (Source: NY Daily News) Brave, calm under pressure, and a selfless servant. "Sully" teaches us all about leadership in a time of crisis. That's Leader Business.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

You Better -- "Bring It!"

I will admit to being a pretty quick judge of people. I can usually determine within about 2 minutes of meeting someone new if they are a person I would want to work with / work for or even if they are someone with whom I would want to hang out.

I have hired and promoted many people. I have rated the performance and potential of hundreds of others. I regularly speak to different groups of leaders and I am always on the prowl for emerging leaders who might join our team. I have served with and for some of the nation’s finest leaders – in and out of the Army. There is one simple quality that differentiates the good from the great.

What am I looking for?

Energy. Passionate, exciting, inspirational energy. That’s it. If you’ve got it, I think we can work well together. I will do anything to work for you or to get you on my team. If you don’t, if you can't bring it, well….

Regardless of what you do, isn’t that what we are all looking for – someone who will inspire us, cause us to jump out of bed, change our lives so we can’t wait to get to work and do battle together? Aren’t we all looking for people with the sort of energy who will rally the team, never get down, never quit? Don’t we all want to hang around with people who can blend work and play, who can give and take, who care deeply about each other and what they are doing?

In my leadership experience, energy produces:

-- A burning desire to succeed…no matter what!
-- A willingness to share in the hardships of battle, to do one’s part.
-- A proactive mindset that anticipates problems rather than just reacting to them.
-- A willingness to fail, to pick up the pieces, and to keep fighting.
-- An ability to accept blame, share credit, and incorporate lessons learned.
-- An ability to follow-up on ideas, to take risks, to push themselves and the team to levels never before imagined.
-- A passion for the team over self.

I may be oversimplifying my analysis. But I think so much of leadership is about energy. If you don’t have it, there is absolutely no way that those who look to you will. If you can’t bring it (and sometimes fake it…without people figuring it out!), you’re not ready to lead.

At least not on my team. I’m looking for energy. That’s Leader Business!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Know When to Fold 'Em

During a Q&A session following a speech I gave to the Orange County Leadership Academy, someone asked a question to which I am sure we can all relate:

"Colonel, what do I do if my boss won't take my suggestions? I hear what you are saying about taking risks and pursuing big ideas, but what are my options if my supervisor doesn't agree? What can I do?"

Here are a few thoughts...and something I have been thinking about a lot recently. I know that, unless you are the President of the United States, you answer to someone and you, like me, are under an authority that makes decisions that you have to follow. So what do we do when our supervisors don't go along with our recommendations, won't adopt our proposals, or will not take the course of action that we know with every fiber of our being is the right one? What do we do if we have articulated the strengths of our preferred alternative, argued passionately about its merits, and done everything we could to outline the best way to go, only to be overruled?

Sing it with me and Kenny Rogers..."You got to know when to fold 'em...."

When I got this question, it hit me square between the eyes as I have been wrestling with this same predicament. That's right, I don't always agree with my supervisors. I put my blood and sweat into certain decisions that are not ultimately approved. I disagree with mandates from my headquarters. Hey...I'm a Soldier.

But what do we do when we don't like the boss' decision? Soldier on!

This is a scenario that leaders at all levels encounter regularly, especially those who are passionate about what they do and push for what they believe is right. Eventually, we must all reconcile with the fact that the boss is the boss -- and we are not. Fight the good fight, make the best case you can, then salute and move out!

Now...I'm not suggesting we should role over on every decision. I'm not making the case for "Yes-Men!" On the contrary, I'm all for a good battle. But the time for fighting, for passionate debate, for non-concurrence is before the boss decides -- not after. We have to do our best to identify and mitigate risks and to identify the strengths of the best alternative and the weaknesses of the others as part of the decision making process -- not after the decision is made. Once the boss has decided, we cannot undercut his authority. No whining, no whispering, no working in private to scuttle. That's disloyal and insubordinate and will lead to organizational ruin.

I'm not talking about immoral or illegal decisions. Of course, those should be called out at any time for what they are. But if they are not this sort of ethical breach but rather a professional difference, the boss wins. The Ace beats the King. And we've got to know when to fold 'em.

Finally, I believe that if we don't like the boss' decision, we have only two choices:

1. Suck it up and be a good Soldier. Keep your personal thoughts to yourself and be a champion for the decision. Sleep well knowing you did all you could to make your case. File away the lesson for when you are the Ace. or

2. Vote with your feet...and leave. Go someplace where your ideas are welcome or where you can hold all the cards.

To do something different, to be somewhere in the middle and undercut our leaders, is a disservice to the boss, to the organization we serve, and to our own authority. You see...we should expect no less from our own team.

Play all your cards before the boss makes her play. Be aggressive, argue with passionate professionalism. But when the decision is made, put down your cards and pick up the case for the new decision. Embrace and market it as if it were your own (the ultimate test of a true professional).

This is hard to hear sometimes. But when I answered the question, I knew I was reminding myself of this key leadership lesson. Know when to fold 'em, friends. That's Leader Business!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

We Were Soldiers...and Leaders

I found this on YouTube and thought it might inspire you as it did for me. Hal Moore is the retired Army officer who was the central figure (played by Mel Gibson) in the movie "We Were Soldiers" and the in the book by the same name. This guy is the real thing! Here are his 4 Principles of a Leader.

Principle #1: 3 Strikes...and You're Not Out. Leaders must constantly display the will to win, by their actions, words, tone of voice, and look in their matter what. Never give any hint or evidence of doubt of a positive outcome. Inspire confidence. Be visible on the battlefield.

Principle #2: There is always one more thing to do to influence any situation in my favor...and after that one more thing...and after that one more thing. Regularly separate from the action and ask: "What am I doing that I should not be doing...and what am I not doing that I should be doing to influence things in my favor?

Principle #3: When there's nothing wrong, there's nothing wrong...except that there's nothing wrong. This is when leaders should be most concerned.

Principle #4: Trust your extincts. They are a product of your education, reading, personality, and experience. Act fast, impart confidence to all around you, don't second-guess your decisions, and make things happen. Face the facts, deal with them, and move on.

An American hero and terrific leader. General Moore "wrote the book" on the business of leaders. Enjoy! Hooah!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

America's Best Leaders

Nikki Schwab writes in this week's US News and World Report about a "National Crisis of Confidence" regarding our leaders:

Americans have steadily lost confidence in their leaders since 2005—the year the government bungled its handling of Hurricane Katrina—according to the third annual Center for Public Leadership/U.S. News poll conducted this fall. More than three quarters of the respondents say they believe the country is going through a leadership crisis, up 7 percent from last year, a trend stretching across all demographic and political groups. Nearly 80 percent feel that unless it gets better leaders, the country will decline, while 51 percent believe that the United States is already falling behind other nations. And about two thirds say that today's leaders pale in comparison with those of 20 years ago.

But who do you think comes in with the highest scores? Military leaders. Forty percent of respondents expressed the highest confidence in those in uniform. Now while the survey principally focuses on public leadership, it is interesting to note what leadership traits were deemed as important in effective public servants:
  • Honesty and Integrity
  • Intelligence
  • Ability to Communicate well
  • Ability to bring people together
  • Decisiveness
  • Having new ideas
  • Understanding and sympathizing with others
  • Experience

It's no secret formula. This is what I call the business of leaders. Whether in private or public sectors, we need leaders of character who have battle-tested leadership skills that are capable of inspiring people to change. It also highlights that critical leadership traits can be developed. Most of the skills on the list are part of military education programs (character, decision making, communication, consensus building). The rest come from OJT (On the Job Training) - with reinforcement coming in the way of feedback from caring leaders. This leadership stuff seems to be working pretty well for the military! That's what Leader Business is all about.

**Read more about this topic at Michael McKinney's Leading Blog. Hooah!