Who You Are is How You Lead

“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.”  Socrates

If you are practicing the ‘fake it ’till you make it’ philosophy of life beware.  People are looking for that which is real. 

The world we live in is much less predictable and that means the rules are changing.  I am observing people looking for leaders and managers whom they can trust.  Sensitivity to authentic leadership is on everyone’s radar and depth of character is being sought out.     

Jon Eisele, Partner at Deloitte, sent me an email this week commenting on how the current business environment might shape our expectations of leaders.  Jon writes:

“I think leadership today is more about servant-leadership than it has ever been.  We have to remind ourselves continuously that ‘who we are’ is far more important than ‘what we accomplish’.  Too many examples of people who minimized personal character in order to win…Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriquez, Bernie Madoff, Tom Petters.”

I think Jon might be on to something.  What do you think?

In the Bernie Madoff scheme, it is interesting how his victims speak more emotionally about his arrogance and disrespect of them, than the millions of dollars they’ve lost because of him.  The pain and devastation of their financial loss is overshadowed by Madoff’s utter contempt  for them as people, colleagues and friends.  I mean, it is one thing to grapple with a shattered trust, but when the person who betrayed you shows no remorse it is practically unbearable.  A broken trust is the most devastating blow to the human spirit. 

So, how do you build trust and gain credibility to lead in a time when every leader is suspect?  Read the rest of this entry »


6 Lessons On Decision-Making From Captain Sully

“Wrong choice…would have been catastrophic” Capt. Chesley Sullenberger
on Larry King Live

The heroic split second decision-making of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger spared the lives of 155 people when he successfully landed his airliner in New York’s Hudson River.  Business leaders navigating their organizations through the current financial crisis can learn a lot from Captain Sully.

Got 9.5 minutes to spare right now?  Grab your mouse, click on the picture below and watch this amazing story of calm decision-making under fire.

Captain Sully had one minute to decide how to solve his problem.  Was this to his advantage or disadvantage?  Does having more time to make a tactical decision reduce the quality of the outcome?  It certainly can if we hem and haw, second guess and fear making the wrong choice.  The advantage Captain Sully had was being forced to tap into his years of experience without time to think about it.  He acted in an unconsciously competent way and described it well when he said, “I was sure I could do it.”

Lesson #1:  Know when to take control. I love that moment when, following protocol, Sully said, “my aircraft”.  How many times have we watched our leaders hestitate to take control of a situation or make a decision?  Those are merely people with titles; they’re not leaders.  Stepping up and taking charge is the task and responsibility of leaders.  And, those who do it best do it without regard for self and with deep commitment to do what’s best for others.

Lesson #2:  Decide direction expeditiously. Captain Sully considered three options for landing in less than a minute.  He then decided, “We’re going into the Hudson.”  Once he made that decision all other options were cut off. Decision means to cut or take away.  Once the other two options for landing the plane were taken away he and the crew could focus completely on making a successful water landing.

Lesson #3:  Do not multi-task. Concentration and focus is the discipline of champions and heros.  When asked if he prayed, the captain said he was concentrating on landing his plane and he “thought of nothing else.”  Focus is seeing all the options clearly, but concentration is executing those options intently. You will not lead your company through this economic crisis if you are distracted by trying to be and do too many things. Read the rest of this entry »


Five Essential Questions For Surviving Tough Times

“Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other.”
– Seth Godin

What a great time to lead. Every leader and manager dealing with the reality of this economic downturn has an opportunity to be a hero if they will be decisive. When our world is shaken and our routines interrupted, we must see it as an opportunity to stop doing the things that aren’t working and start doing things that will increase our chance for success.

A manager shared with me a conversation he recently had with his boss, the Regional Manager. In an attempt to encourage the Manager, the Regional Manager admonished him to “stay the course.” The manager responded, “No. We must change the course. What we have been doing is not working in these unprecedented times.”

Read the rest of this entry »