Democracy is based on the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people. – Harry Emerson Fosdick Reason 1: Rookie Mistakes Your city council is a collection of novice members who are continuously being replaced. Every one of them starts out as a raw rookie. I don’t care what their professional background is; when they first get elected to office, they start out as a raw rookie. Sometimes these raw rookies have run for office on

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The tough part of management is not administration; it is people. Well-managed systems may run themselves. People, on the other hand, are not to be managed; they must be led. Part of the governance process in any organization is getting people to go along with ideas they themselves have not initiated. Good leaders know that most people, if not all, are motivated by self-interest. While politicians cater to the interest of voters, true leaders understand

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No Days Off for Leadership

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Leaders may, and should, take days off, but the leadership system can never have a day off. It has to be functioning 24/7/365. The leaders of a nationally well known organization seemed surprised by the results of their premier event of the year. Had they had the proper leadership systems in place, they should have not been surprised at all. Rather, everything should have been tested out thoroughly in advance and they should have, like

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Oil spills. Terrorist attacks. Pandemic influenza. Hurricanes. Each of these events can disrupt your business significantly. It is therefore important to develop what a 2009 report from the IBM Business Values Institute calls “human capital resilience,” which the study defines as “an organization’s ability to respond and adapt rapidly to threats posed to its workforce.” The word resilience captures how leaders must learn to cope with adversity. The report outlines a number of steps that

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Sometimes if you scratch beneath the surface of a good team, you may find that team performance depends upon the efforts of one or two high achievers. That may be okay for the short term but what happens when one or two of those stars move on? What does the manager do next? First look to the team. Ask for the members of the team to step up. One or more of them may be

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If you’ve seen the movie “the King’s Speech,” you know that to reassure his people during a time of crisis, King George VI had to overcome his stutter. If you’ve been in the audience when CEO’s, Chief Technology Officers, VPs, Program Managers, Directors, and other leaders have made their presentations, you know that many of them have their own speaking obstacles to overcome.  With their “ahs” and “ums” and poor eye contact (reading, looking at

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We are in love with the image of an athlete who guides his team to victory against bigger, faster, and more skilled opponents. We like it best when that player is a quarterback, banged up and bloodied yet plays through pain to will his team to victory. This hero story took a hit when Jay Cutler, quarterback of the Chicago Bears, allowed himself to be taken out of the NFC championship game because of an

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“Which corporate leaders do you admire?” was a question posed to me during a break during a leadership workshop I was conducting. In years past I would have rattled off a list of the “usual suspects” of familiar names with folks like Anne Mulcahy, Alan Mulally, Shelly Lazarus, and Larry Bossidy. Not this time! With respect to all of these fine leaders, who except for Mulally, are retired, I continue to be impressed by every

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Advisers advise. Leaders lead. It is a leader’s responsibility to listen but not always to act on what she hears. That’s the difference between advising and leading. President Obama’s efforts to impose his views on the conduct of the war in Afghanistan bring to mind the example of an earlier president, Abraham Lincoln. During the first three years of the Civil War, Lincoln was served by military leaders who were either less than competent or,

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Leaders are agents of change. We change, as Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter has taught us, only when it hurts too much not to change. It is leaders who leverage the points of pain to get people to move forward. When the lever is first applied, the weight of resistance is mighty and so leaders must do it alone. They are sometimes out in front with few people to follow them. For example, consider the

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