Why Leaders Need to Keep the Yardstick Up In the Air

In our last two blog entries we’ve investigated (1) an important way to keep followers motivated and (2) how to help followers consistently make good decisions. This week’s video blog shows the single leadership concept that those ideas point toward and how it works to make leaders not only more effective, but also more efficient. 

The One Phrase That Every Leader Needs

Aquafina, anyone?In last week’s blog, I shared that my wife and I kicked off the new year by volunteering at a spiritual development conference called “Passion 2016.” The scope of the conference was impressive: 40,000 people between the ages of 18 and 25 hailing from all 50 states and 51 countries spread across three different arenas in the southern United States. This was no small undertaking.

My wife and I were assigned roles on the Hospitably Team at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. It was our team’s responsibility to ensure that our venue’s volunteers, audio/visual production staff, on-stage communicators, musicians, and administrative team were properly hydrated, caffeinated, snack-i-fied, and in some cases, straight up fed. All in all there were more than 400 people we were serving in four different parts of the building ranging from the second to highest floor in the arena all the way to the basement.

With such an assignment, one might expect that our primary marching orders would have to do with the details of delivery schedules and communication processes. What we received from our leader, however, was something far simpler and more effective than any detail could provide.

Two Enemies to Avoid —
Setting Standards, Part 5

fear and anxiety goalsWe’ve spent our last four weeks looking at how standards help leaders set direction. Last week, we dared to peer underneath the mechanics of setting standards and into the motives leaders have for setting them. This week, we investigate how our long-term leadership effectiveness is impacted by our reactions when standards are violated.

To start that investigation, let’s first think about what it means to be a follower. What does it feel like to be on the losing end of a standard? What happens inside followers when they must be corrected regarding a new or existing standard? What happens within on-looking followers who watch the enforcement of standards unfold?

What’s Your Motive? —
Setting Standards, Part 4

looking under the hoodFor the last three weeks we’ve been looking at the role that setting standards plays in the leader’s effort to set direction. We started off with wise words from Colonel Art Athens. We spent the next two weeks looking at four truths about setting standards.

This wouldn’t be The Aperio if we didn’t look under the hood to see the truth about what drives leaders to set standards. To do so, we must look below our actions and into our…(dramatic pause)…motives (audible gasp).

What you’re about to read will not surprise your mind. It may, however, challenge your heart. (But only if you have the courage to let it.)

Two More Truths —
Setting Standards, Part 3

barometerIn the first week of this series, we were introduced to the role that standards play in helping leaders set direction for their followers. In last week’s posting, we looked at two truths that need to be considered before leaders set standards:

Truth #1:
Standards are About Culture, Not Goals


Truth #2:
Standards are Often Expensive

To see both of these truths on display from Duke Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski, one of the most successful leaders ever in the world of collegiate athletics, check out this story (especially Krzyzewski’s comments) which broke late last week.

With that real-time example in our pocket, let’s move on to truths #3 and #4 about standards.

Don’t Be Flippant —
Setting Standards, Part 2

large_5359614153In my first two years in college, I played basketball at Purdue University for Hall of Fame coach Gene Keady. Believe it or not, Coach had just one team rule for us: “Do your best.” Simple as it was, that standard influenced the way I thought and set the tone for our basketball program. (It also gave Coach all the ammunition he needed any time one of us slacked off in practice or made poor choices in our academic or social endeavors.) To see the clarity that standard created, simply note that I remember it today, more than 20 years later.

In last week’s blog entry, we met Colonel Art Athens, the Director of the Center for Ethical Leadership at the Naval Academy. He shared that when it comes to the leader’s responsibility to “Set Direction,” one key method for doing so is setting standards, standards like “Do your best.” Though its difficult to argue with the wisdom of creating standards, doing so should not be done flippantly. No matter the standards we choose, we and those we lead have to live with the consequences of implementing them.

Here are a couple of truths about standards worth considering before we put them in place.

Simple Words from an Accomplished Leader —
Setting Standards, Part 1

medium_456443078During my now 15 year investigation of the inner realities of exceptional leadership, I have been blessed with opportunities to visit with leadership development professionals at three institutions whose focus on developing leaders is quintessential: The United States Military Academy (aka “West Point”), The United States Naval Academy, and The United States Air Force Academy.

During my visit to the Naval Academy, I was hosted by Colonel Art Athens. At the time, Colonel Athens was serving as a Distinguished Military Professor of Leadership. Today Colonel Athens serves as the Director of the Center for Ethical Leadership at the Naval Academy.

Colonel Athens is not the type of person one easily forgets.

Are You Planning Your Way to
“Management” or “Leadership”?

Leadership vs. Management v2With the calendar year drawing to a close, it’s common to find ourselves planning for the 12 months which lie in front of us. Planning is an essential tool of organizational and personal life. It helps us anticipate problems, prioritize our efforts, and see opportunities. But the role of planning in the life of an exceptional leader is often misunderstood.

Many people today categorize planning as a function of “management.” Most famous in his analysis of the differences between “leadership” and “management” is author and teacher John Kotter. Kotter has long contended that management is the ability to plan, organize, and control outcomes while leadership is the ability to set direction, align resources, and motivate and inspire. Kotter has asserted that the world is full of organizations and individuals who mistake management for leadership and suffer the consequences of doing so.