Category Archives: Leadership Values

When Leaders Lose Sight of Their Primary Purpose

Lives are lost.  Trust is broken. Property is destroyed. And, the captain is forever tainted with the whiff of cowardice, no matter what the outcome of official investigations to come.  That’s the sad tale of the cruise ship, Costa Concordia.

And Why?  This is why…

The captain, the crew, and possibly even the cruise line, failed to keep focused on their primary purpose.

I see the primary purpose of the captain and crew of a commercial sailing vessel as ensuring the enjoyment and safety of the passengers.  Simply that.

The events that led up to the sinking of the Costa Concordia showed evidence that this purpose, (or facsimile thereof), was nowhere in sight as the Captain chose to sail too close to shore reportedly with the intent of ‘saluting’ a former colleague who lived on the Island.

The result, of course, was a hundred and sixty foot gash in the ship’s hull; a crew that failed to follow proper evacuation procedures; panic and chaos among the passengers; and a captain who appears to have chosen self- preservation over the honour of fulfilling his obligation to the passengers.

This is not the first time this has happened.  In 1991, the cruise ship Oceanos sank in heavy seas off the coast of South Africa.  A similar scenario played out then. This time, luckily, no one died. But, the Captain and crew abandoned ship before the passengers, leaving them to seek leadership from two of the ship’s entertainers who, by all accounts, acquitted themselves bravely staying until the last passenger was safely off the ship.

This is what one of them relates about his experience:

So what does this teach us?   To me, one thing it teaches is the importance of knowing, understanding and believing in a business or organization’s fundamental reason for being; being clear about what and who it is there to serve; and then focusing all activity on the fulfillment of that purpose.

I know, it sounds easier than it is but having a really strong feeling of purpose can make the difference between doing the right things and courting disaster.

Another thing that comes to mind for me is that while leadership is about going first, in some situations, it is also about going last.  In short, whether they are ships or businesses, when they fail, good leaders , stay until the end.

What do you think?


Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values, Servant Leadership

A Case For Being a ‘Nice’ Boss

My uncle, now deceased, used to have a little wooden plaque hanging on the wall of his den.  It read, “It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice”

I was reminded of this the other day when I caught myself being not nice to a young man who was conducting telephone surveys for an insurance company.  Specifically, I allowed my disdain for unsolicited telephone surveys to affect the way I spoke to him.  That wasn’t fair.  And it definitely wasn’t nice.  So I apologized and then did my best to separate my dislike for the survey from my empathy for someone doing an honest and thankless job.

It occurred to me then that nice, at least in corporate settings, is often the victim of our contempt and in fact frequently equated with weakness.  The perspective is that people who are nice are pushovers. They lack character. They are spineless, maybe even incompetent.  When we ask people to describe a leader, they invariably say things like, strong, decisive, visionary, and courageous.  Rarely are they characterized as ‘nice’.  Indeed in some organizations we even expect our leaders to bring with them a measure of unpleasantness.  It goes with the territory.  After all, they are busy people. ‘Nice’ doesn’t get the job done.

But to me, it gets a bad rap.  In fact I think it has an important role to play in organizational success.  I think too, that it could use some repositioning in terms of the way we think about it.

So let’s try it.

What if we decided to equate ‘nice’ with strength instead of weakness?  What would it look like?  Well, here’s what I’m thinking about that:

When “nice” = “strength”…

It would look like Kindness  ~ We’ve all heard it.  “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” It’s an old American proverb with an enduring ring of truth.  And really, it takes just as much time to be mean as it does to be kind.

It would look like Truthfulness ~ Here’s where ‘nice’ grows teeth. Sometimes engaging in difficult conversations and telling people what they need to hear to make better choices is much nicer than avoiding or misleading them.  Often, taking the easy way out is very far from being nice.

It would look like Respect  ~ To me, respect asks us to behave like adults and treat others like adults too.  There is no room for condescension or patronizing behaviour in my definition.  It’s simply not nice.

It would look like Generosity ~ Generosity is often about letting go of something we’d rather keep for ourselves.  It is a demonstration of regard and a vote of confidence.  It takes strength.  And, it’s a nice habit to adopt because generosity can be catching.

It would look like Clarity ~ Being clear about what we need and what we expect is part of the package, especially if we intend to use those expectations as a benchmark for performance appraisal at some point.  Otherwise, it’s not fair and especially not nice.

It would look like Empathy ~ Seeking to understand how things are for others is a primary role of the leader.  It’s the way s/he “tunes in” to the work environment and engages people, not only in conversation but also in playing a willing part in fulfilling the organizational purpose.

It would look like Civility ~ Good manners are certainly part of being nice.  We may think we don’t have time for this. We are too busy.  I assert, however, that for workplaces to be ‘livable’ they must include courteousness.  People work better together when they treat each other well.  It’s as simple as that.

The truth about being “nice” is, it really doesn’t matter what you call it.  It’s not about the word.  It’s about the behaviour that the word suggests.  If we choose to look at being nice as a weakness, we will continue to discount its value in the workplace.  We will cling to the notion that “nice ‘guys’ finish last” and  keep on accepting objectionable behaviour from leaders who believe it.

So let’s remember those words from the American Playwright, Wilson Mizner, ~ “Be nice to the people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down”

What do you think?


Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, communication, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values, Organizational Effectiveness, Servant Leadership

Command, Control and Authority

I think we can agree that there are a number of leadership styles but the one we love to hate is the Command and Control style.

I once had a boss who was the epitome of command and control, a real “my way or the highway” kind of guy.  He was a stickler for punctuality and his need for control was so strong that he posted one of his managers at the elevators each morning armed with a clipboard and orders to write down the names of all those unsuspecting stragglers who deigned to arrive past the expected starting time.

One morning I peered over the shoulder of one of these hapless managers only to see that, having caught someone alighting from the elevator at 9:02 a.m., he had written, “girl with red hair and green sweater”

I asked him how he expected to create anything that the boss would find useful if he didn’t know the names of the people he was there to “catch”.  He said,

“I have no *f*&*%! idea.  I’m just doing what I’m told”

That is a classic consequence of creating and working in a command and control culture.  It assumes that the person in charge is the holder of all wisdom, skill and experience; a person who knows exactly what they are doing at all times and the Mecca to which everyone bows.  And the rest of us simply do as we are told.

Except we don’t.

In fact, while we are doing as we are told, we are also finding ways to quietly sabotage progress.  We waste time grumbling.  We call in sick when we are just too fed up to go in. We arrive on time but then do nothing for the first hour.  We spend time dreaming up other ways to get around the stringent rules set out for us; and somewhere in all of that, productivity, dignity, a sense of accomplishment, and of purpose, are lost.

So no, command and control in a business or organizational environment is not a leadership style that  serves us any more… at least not in large doses.

Having said that there are situations that will call for an authoritative approach to leadership. For example:

  • In times of revolutionary change when the future feels doubtful, this take-charge style is needed, and often appreciated, to help people over the hump of uncertainty.
  • When under tight deadlines or in crises, there often just isn’t time for lengthy debate or consensus building.
  • When the leader has more knowledge around a certain issue and it just makes sense for him or her to make a decision for everyone.
  • When the organization has drifted from its purpose or lost sight of its vision a strong authoritative presence is required to recalibrate organizational focus.

So, in short, while we love to hate command and control, we would be wise to allow that there are times when authoritative leadership is necessary.  The trouble is, if not used well, it can easily morph into something that fails to serve the organization or the greater good.  So, like the delicate balance of a perfect stew, the application of control and authority must be carefully measured and administered to render it both useful and palatable.

What do you think?


Filed under Leadership, Leadership Style, Leadership Values, Organizational Effectiveness

Creating Boundaries For Growth & Success

In life and work, there are many boundaries.  For example, there are personal ones; interpersonal ones and systemic ones, just to name a few.  And then there are organizational boundaries.  These are the ones that intrigue me most because they are the most difficult to manage and yet can be just the thing that makes growth and success possible.

The trouble with organizational boundaries though, is that so often they are defined by rules and procedures that have a tendency to limit creative ability and collaborative effort.  That can be very stifling for both the organization and most certainly for the people who work in it.  In my mind, boundaries built on rules and procedures alone make an organization look a bit like this:

It has a rather claustrophobic feeling about it, doesn’t it? And, its walls are solid and unbending.  In an atmosphere like this, I can imagine how hard it must be to engage people in creative thinking, (and doing), because really, there seems to be no way out of the ‘boundary box’.  In this scenario, boundaries create a static space with little room for fresh ideas or growth.

But, let’s not get carried away.  Boundaries are a necessary part of every organization.  Without them, we invite chaos, distraction, and confusion with everyone running around doing their own thing and nothing meaningful being accomplished.

The thing is, boundaries don’t have to limit our ability to put our heads together and come up with ideas and activities that bring the workplace alive and produce something meaningful and fulfilling.

In fact, if expressed differently they can serve the creative process amazingly well.  Here’s what it might look like:

You may notice that the Legal and Ethical boundary appears at the bottom of both images.  There’s no getting away from that one.  It is in no way flexible and serves as the foundation for any reputable organization’s dealings.

The vision and purpose of the organization provides the uppermost boundary.  This speaks to the importance of creating, conveying and instilling a clear sense of purpose and future throughout the workforce. This is not simply about hanging framed vision statements on the wall.  It is something that acts as a guide to decision makers and leaders throughout the company regardless of their position or title.  It invites the question, “Does what we are about to do serve our organizational purpose and move us closer to realizing our ultimate goal?”

The boundaries on either side of the model are created by the Values the organization and its people espouse.  Values express our intentional behaviour and the qualities we hold as critical to the company and what it stands for. It also invites the question, “ Does what we are planning to do honour our values? If it doesn’t, what must we do differently to ensure alignment?”

Finally, the Creative space here is not so much restricted by hard and fast rules but guided by a set of principles that makes sense to everyone. They are open to challenge. They respond to changing times and situations. And that makes the creative space alive and dynamic.

Of course, if there were a downside to this kind of boundary making, it would be the greyness of its nature.  Rules are black and white, right or wrong… vision, purpose and values…not so much. These can be open to interpretation from one person to the next.  As such, they require ongoing attention, management and leadership.  Their messages must be constantly referenced and reinforced.  And too, there must be a strong belief in the will and capability of people to see themselves in the organizational vision, working with others to fulfill its purpose and aligning themselves with the values it embraces.

For the leader, it is not easy work…not at all.  To me, though, it is work worth pursuing because, done well, it increases the potential of companies to successfully build something that everyone involved can feel proud of.

What do you think?


Filed under Employee engagement, Establishing Direction, Leadership, Leadership Values, Leadership Vision, Management

Leading By Example and Mistaken Beliefs

This post was originally published in June 2009.  In spite of its length, it is one that I like to come back to from time to time because I strongly believe it is not what we say, or what we intend but what we do that shapes the leader.  What do you think?

According to Albert Schweitzer, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing”.

If Albert is right about that, then leading by example, although a simple enough concept carries with it a pretty big impact.

On the face of it, to get it right, leaders must exhibit the behaviour they would like to see in others.  To use a well worn expression (that frankly, really belongs in the cliché bin), it’s about “walking the walk and talking the talk”.   What could possibly be complicated about that? Yet, some of us still manage to muck it up.

Perhaps  it is so simple that we often fail to consider it at all.  Or, perhaps it is that some people have mistaken beliefs about what leading by example is really about. Here are a few possibilities that come to mind for me:

  •  Mistaken Belief #1 – Leading by Example is a 9-5 pursuit

I suspect that some leaders make leading by example a project rather than a way of being. In other words, they appreciate that in order to engage people at the office they have to serve as a role model and so they create a model of personal behaviour that may have little or no bearing on who they really are. In effect they put on their office persona in the morning along with their business clothes and take it off again when they get home and change into something more comfortable. While this practice may show some positive results in the short term, it is not easily sustainable.  And, I can only imagine how exhausting it must be.

The bottom line: If you don’t represent yourself honestly where ever you are, the example you set will not ring true for those you want to influence the most.

  •  Mistaken Belief #2 – You can get people to do as you say, and not as you do, as long as you don’t get caught

In our condominium complex, there is a man on the board who is President of his own company. He serves on our Strata as Chair of the Building Committee, a pretty important role.  This past week he sent out a communication to all owners to advise us that putting weather stripping across our front doors is strongly discouraged because doing so interferes with the flow of air to the suites.  He advised those among us who had installed weather stripping to remove it immediately.

Days later, after receiving this rather forceful message, my husband had cause to place a note concerning condo board business under this man’s door.  He was unsuccessful in doing so because apparently, our Building Chair had installed weather stripping.

The Bottom Line: If you have ever had the idea that you can say one thing and do another and not be found out, think again.   Believe me, you will be busted. And, when you are, the trust and respect that others have for you will be compromised.

  • Mistaken Belief #3 – People will only pick up and emulate the behaviours you want them to adopt

No matter who we are, as long as we are alive, someone is looking to us for an example of how to behave. Even if we have never been placed in a formal leadership position, we influence those around us simply by being there. And, being human, we are not always going to act in exemplary fashion. We can only hope to align our behaviour in accordance with what we value most and accept that sometimes others will pick up something from us that we would rather they hadn’t.  It happens.

For example, a long time ago, I was invited to attend a lunch in the Head office executive dining room.  I was very surprised to receive the invitation because as a fairly junior personnel assistant, it was a bit of a lofty thing to happen for me.

The purpose of the lunch was to entertain a party of Chinese students. On meeting them I began to realize why I might have been chosen to participate.  They were all rather small and I, also being rather small, seemed to be the only bank representative who could look them straight in the eye without having to sit down.

The table was beautifully set. However, the  challenge for me and my lunch companions was that it was rather high, and the dining chairs, in contrast, rather low.

In spite of this, the lunch unfolded quite well…until the waiters delivered dessert, strawberries served in a tall stemmed glass, rimmed with sugar. It didn’t take long for me to discover that if I actually wanted to eat these delicious strawberries, I would have to stand up.  The other diminutives around the table seemed to be in the same predicament.  I noticed them looking at each other but none was so brave as to take a chance and grab a strawberry quickly while no one was looking.  And so, at what I considered to be a strategic moment, I took up my spoon, stood up very quickly, popped a strawberry into my mouth and sat down, just as quickly, to chew it.  My new, and equally undersized companions followed my lead until soon, we were all popping up and down until we bore a striking resemblance to an um-pa-pa band.  Needless to say, I was never invited back to the executive dining room.

Bottom lineIt is a mistake to expect that people will not, at times, follow an unintended lead. It happens.  Forgive yourself and move on.

What mistaken beliefs come to mind for you?


Filed under communication, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Style, Leadership Values, Organizational Effectiveness

Office Politics…The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Every now and then I like to revisit and refresh a post whose message might be worthy of repeating. This one is from May 2009 and I chose it because I don’t’ expect office politics has gone away since then do you?


How often have you said something like, “I hate office politics”?

If your answer is, “very often” you are likely in good company. It’s a topic that tends to make one grimace and yet, in any business involving more than, say, two people, it is simply a fact of organizational life.

There are many definitions for the term office politics but I think it is about power and advantage; how we acquire it and how we use it to influence others, sometimes for our own benefit and sometimes for the benefit of a larger purpose.

I don’t know about you, but when I first think of the term office politics, I immediately go to the dark side and conjure up images of some very slick people engaging in some very self-indulgent activities.  But, politics in organizational life doesn’t always have to be a weapon.  It can also be a useful tool.  So, in an attempt to distinguish the baby from the bath water here’s my take on politics in the office.

Bad Office politics = Self-promotion over the greater good

Self-promotion is not a bad thing.  After all, when we accomplish something great it is not wrong to feel pride or to talk about it. In fact, sometimes people go the other way and are far too modest when talking about their achievements.

However, self-promotion crosses a line when it is allowed to take precedence over the achievement of collective goals.  The practice of bad office politics involves inordinate amounts of unproductive time being spent tapping into the organizational grape-vine, (a repository for incomplete information and throwaway commentary) to determine “strategies” about who to suck up to next or, what tidbit of information might be useful as a questionable tool of “persuasion”.

Bad office politics is where gossip and innuendo lie.  It represents the gray edges of organizational life and it is no wonder that most people have little tolerance for it.

Ugly Office politics = Destructive behaviour that benefits no one.

Ugly office politics takes the notion of self-promotion to greater depths.  People who practice ugly office politics are not above taking credit for other people’s work.  They are often very crafty and good at placing blame on others for mistakes they have made themselves.  In the extreme, ugly office politics includes bullying in a variety of forms, a very unattractive and destructive activity.

In short, these are the practices that can make organizational life intolerable.

But, if bad and ugly office politics are the bath water, then this is where the baby comes in and where opportunity lies.

Good Office politics = Building Positive Relationships

Building relationships is something that leaders must engage in to get things done. They have to go beyond the confines of their own area to build purposeful and focused relationships with people in a variety of roles, levels & situations. They do this for a number of reasons that include:

  • To understand and stay focused on the purpose and larger objectives of the organization.
  • To forge mutually beneficial alliances with others both inside and outside the organization and;
  • To make certain they get the resources they need to accomplish their goals.

It means spending time with people at all levels of the organization; finding out what makes them tick; giving support to their goals and using their own power of persuasion to contribute to situations where everyone gets to win.  This, to me, is the nature of good office politics.

The practice of good office politics relies on three things:

  • A good moral compass;
  • A generous attitude toward others and;
  • An interest in forging collaborative relationships for the purpose of gaining collective strength, learning and growth

As well, the practice of good office politics often carries with it, a bonus.  That is, the respect and good will those who practice it earn from the people they work with. In fact, I have observed that people who practice good office politics often have all the recognition and accolades they can handle.

And that can’t be bad.

What do you think?


Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values, Organizational Effectiveness

Caring or Care-taking?~A Fine Distinction

In this blog I write a lot about caring in leadership.  I write about it because I strongly believe that if leaders care about people, their efforts will be rewarded in a multitude of ways, both intrinsically and extrinsically.

In my experience though, ‘caring’ in organizations takes one of two forms.  One provides the best possible opportunity for people to thrive, grow and contribute and the other does just the opposite. The challenge is that not unlike identical twins, each kind of caring, though sounding like the other and looking very much like the other to the naked eye, is not, and has a very different impact when applied to the workplace and the people who work in it.

So, what is the difference between caring and caretaking?

Well, for one thing,there is a difference in the assumptions we work from.

Caretaking assumptions look like this:

  • I know what’s best for those who follow me.
  • If I take care of them, they owe me.
  • My people are not capable of solving their own problems.
  • If they do as I ask, I will keep them safe
  • As leader, I am also protector.

Caring assumptions look more like this:

  • Those I lead know what’s best for them.  They like to have choices.
  • If I care for them, they will care for others including those whom the organization serves.
  • People I lead are responsible adults
  • People are fully capable of solving their own problems
  • As leader, I am also facilitator.

For some, the notion of being taken care of can actually be appealing, at least at first.  In this scenario, when I have a particularly sticky problem, I simply have to take it to my boss and s/he will take it off my hands. As well, decisions that affect me are not usually discussed with me and so if things go wrong I feel quite justified in grumbling about it without having to take responsibility for it.  And that can be perversely satisfying.

Eventually though, even people who initially like the idea of being taken care of tire of it and either strain against its limitations or retreat, taking their best game them.

There will be some who believe that creating a caring work environment is akin to the notion of laissez-faire leadership. But really, caring workplaces typically operate from clearly stated boundaries communicated through their organizational purpose and a set of values that provide both focus and a guide for problem solving and decision-making.

Using those boundaries as a guide, organizations and leaders who care will, among other things:

  • Hold people accountable for the commitments and decisions they make
  • Provide opportunities for learning and growth
  • Encourage, coach and challenge people to build capability
  • Liberally share problem solving and resist the temptation to “do it themselves”
  • Acknowledge and reward fine work regularly
  • Create structures and mechanisms that encourage autonomy and allow for help to be available when it is most needed.

There are of course other characteristics associated with leaders who care but the bottom line is this:

Those who caretake exercise power over others and operate from the perspective of ownership.  Those who care are more likely to value collaborative effort and operate from the perspective of shared responsibility.

Given a choice I know which one I’d go for.  What about you?



Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, communication, Employee engagement, Leadership Development, Leadership Style, Leadership Values, Organizational Effectiveness

Getting at the Heart of Leadership

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”~  His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

I was thinking the other day about how easy it is, on first embarking on the leadership road to pack our authority and our sense of self-importance but leave little room in the bag for what it really takes to lead well ~ heart.

For the fledgling leader it’s an easy mistake to make.  As fledglings, we often expect little from others, except maybe obedience.

I like to think that most of us grow out of it.  Some people though, fledgling and seasoned alike, treat the leadership role like a game of monopoly. They have a strategy and goals. They deal in only that which they can hold in their hand or see on the bottom line.  They buy and sell, trade and bargain. They strive to pass GO as often as possible so they can collect their $200 regularly.  Their focus is singular, their intent only to finish the game with the greatest number of assets.

It is possible that these leaders believe their legacy will come from asset gathering alone.  There are after all, some very wealthy and powerful people who have amassed their fortunes in just that way.  So why bother to mess it up with emotion?

Well, being a simple kind of person, I think the answer to that is simply that human beings are emotional creatures.  And, if we expect them to bring all of themselves to work and dedicate their energies to the success of our enterprises, we must also care about them.

Witness the case of Cecelia Ingraham.

Ms Ingraham worked as an Administrative Assistant for a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey.  She is also a mother whose teenaged daughter died.  That kind of grief is unimaginable for most of us.

Her co-workers, although initially sympathetic, became uncomfortable around her because she talked about her daughter constantly, hung the girl’s ballet shoes in her cubicle and displayed her child’s photograph on her desk.  Someone complained to the boss that Ms Ingraham’s behaviour was becoming disruptive, interfering with the work.

The story goes down hill from here, the bottom line of which is this.  Ms Ingraham was told to remove the mementos of her daughter from her workstation; stop talking about her and, in fact, pretend that she had never existed.

There is more to this story, the outcome of which produced no winners at all.  Money was no doubt spent in both accusing and defending.  The twelve years of experience and the time Ms Ingraham spent learning and contributing to the company prior to her daughter’s death were lost.  And there are others costs.  Those who continue to work for this company will by now get the message that perhaps its best to leave part of themselves in a safe place at home.  There is, after all no empathy waiting for them at work and no help when they really need it.

As Glenn Holland put it in Mr. Holland’s Opus,Music is not just notes on a page”.  Similarly leadership is not just about being in charge or numbers on a balance sheet.

So, if you are new leader by all means pack your self-confidence; be aware of, and use your authority but please leave plenty of room for your heart.  If you are to be truly successful, you will need it.  And so will everyone else.

What do you think?


Filed under building awareness, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values

In Search of NOWLeaders…NOW

This week’s post is a little different from my usual fare.  As you read it, I’d like to ask you to think about leaders you know .  Please think about them in the context of their leadership ability.  If you admired them, why?  What do they do that inspires you?  Do they make people want to give their best effort? If so, why is that? As you get to the end of the post, would you please think too about whether they could be a leader we’re looking for?   If they are, there’s something you can do..

Labor Day is sort of like the New Year.  It’s a time when we start to brush off the lethargy that summer heat sometimes brings upon us, and start some new things.

It seems a good time too, for shifting perspectives and looking for new places to explore. That’s what this post is about.  Only we’re going to look for leadership and we’re going to look for it in places we may not have considered before.

Who is We? You may ask…

Anne Perschel, Dale Lawrence and Gwyn Teatro form the core team with Tanya Odom, Eric Peterson, Marion Chapsal and Joe Gerstandt as our advisory team

Why? You may ask…

Well, we believe that the variety of lists representing the epitome of leadership, while impressive, is missing a whole population of talented leaders.  We want to find them.  We want to build a rich, diverse portfolio of them.  And, we want to shine some light on them.

Why? You may ask…

Well, it seems that the 21st Century, an age of information and technology, is asking for something different from us than was called for in the Industrial age.  The pace of change is accelerating at a dizzying rate.  The world, through technology, is getting smaller and smaller.  So to be successful in any endeavour today, we must find ways to cut through traditional bureaucracies and structures and optimize on the brainpower available to us.  As such, we believe there is a need to shift and expand our perspectives about who and what makes leadership effective in this new age.

Simply put, we want to be able to grow our capacity for great leadership and our understanding of what it takes to engage more brains and hearts in doing great work and accomplishing great things…together

In short, we are looking for NOWLeaders

What is a NOWLeader? You may ask…

NOWLeaders are those who understand the challenges and demands of the 21st Century and the people who live in it.  They are highly accomplished.  They are global citizens.  They achieve results through and alongside people, rather than around them, over them or in spite of them.

NOWLeaders are focused on a purpose that extends beyond the bottom line, with tendrils and tentacles that reach out to the local, national and global communities they serve.   They are business leaders.  They are thought leaders.  They are military leaders.  They lead non-profit organizations, small organizations and large ones.

NOWLeaders share a set of qualities and skills that equips them to navigate the rapids that a fast-paced world with a short attention span can create.  And yet, they are also diverse in thought, experience, culture, nationality and ethnicity.  They are women.  They are men.  They are young…and old.  They are everywhere.

Will you help us find them?

Yes? Terrific. We hoped you would.

Here’s what you can do.

Begin by nominating someone who you believe exhibits the attributes of a NOWLeader and demonstrates the skills associated with the development of inclusive, collaborative organizations, someone who is highly accomplished yet prefers to share recognition and reward with others.

How do I do that? You may ask…

Well, you go directly to, where you will find all the information and instruction you need to nominate your NOWLeader. Come along for the ride, won’t you?   Please join us in being the change we, and you, seek to create…and thank you for doing so.

Leave a comment

Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Style, Leadership Values

Getting back to work ~ What Motivates Us.

I hate to say it…but I will.  Summer is coming to a close.  It feels a little sad saying adios to the hazy, crazy, sometimes lazy days of summer.  And yet, to me, there is always a ‘new start’ feeling about September.  I guess it must be that, for most people, summer vacation is over and it’s time to get back to work.

Some of us will approach this prospect with enthusiasm and some, well, some will spend time singing the back to work blues.

As a leader, it is reasonable to assume that you would prefer the enthusiasm option to the blues option.  But, like everything else, you’ll likely have to work for it.

So here’s a reminder from Daniel Pink about what truly motivates people to do their best work, (post vacation or otherwise) and it has nothing to do with money.   In fact, according to Pink, (and intuitively, I agree) there are three things that, in combination, will charge our batteries and get us happily moving forward.  Here they are:

Autonomy ~ freedom to, independently or with others of our choosing, work creatively and produce something we can be proud of.

Mastery ~ opportunities to learn, grow and build on our interests, knowledge and abilities

Purpose ~ Connecting to something greater than ourselves that we can believe in and strive to fulfill.

Here is a wonderful RSA Animate production called Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  It is ten minutes long but, for any leader, is worth the time to see because it gets to the heart of what motivates us.

This presentation suggests to me that to keep the effects of lethargy (whenever it may arise) from diminishing our activity and blurring our focus, we must find ways to emphasize or integrate the principles of autonomy, mastery and purpose into our everyday work life.

With this in mind, here are some questions for you, as leader, to consider:


Given the nature of your business, how might you provide opportunity for people to work autonomously?

How flexible are you when it comes to work arrangements?

What would happen if you were to make each person’s operational framework larger and allow more independence? What might it look like?

What would you need to make it work?  What would you have to do to fill that need?  What would others have to do?

Mastery: What opportunities do you provide for people to get better at what they do?

How do you approach development planning?

How do you acknowledge accomplishment?

What value do you place on curiosity, risk and learning?

What are you willing to try, to allow your people a chance for growth and greater contribution?

If you were to take what you are doing now to increase peoples’ level of mastery and multiply it by two, what would it look like? What do you anticipate would be the outcome?

Purpose: What purpose does your organization serve?

Does everyone in your organization know it? Understand it? Believe in it?

How often do you remind people of your organizational purpose?

How do you help them make the connection between what they do and how they contribute to the fulfillment of the purpose?


There will of course be other questions that come up for you but the point is, there are times when this notion of achieving a working environment that values autonomy, mastery and purpose requires some active consideration.

I just happen to think that the autumn, (when we tend to need time to cast fresh eyes on our life and work), is one of those times.

What do you think?


Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values, Leading Teams, motivating & Inspiring