Category Archives: Book Review
Drs. Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair provide this post, an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciateive Inquiry from the authors.
Change is a constant for leaders in all walks of life and is often prompted by crisis, financial or organizational. In building the practice of hope and a hopeful view, leaders need to face what is happening and yet inspire people in order to move toward a better future. This practice of hope pulls the crisis of the past into the possibility of the future. One leader we interviewed told an amazing story about hope and how at times, as leaders, we must acknowledge the past and our fears, and still inspire people for the future:
Hope should have filled the air. It was late August, always an exciting time of year as we welcome new students and faculty and kick off another academic year. I had served the college for twenty-six years in a variety of faculty and administrative roles, but this year was my first as president. I wanted nothing more than to walk in to our opening-day meeting and inspire the college community with an exciting vision for the future.
But times were hard. The college was experiencing an alarming decline in enrollment and, along with it, a dramatic drop in revenue. As I thought about what I would say on that opening day, I had more questions than answers. How do I create excitement about the future in a time of tremendous difficulty? Could we survive without layoffs for the first time in the college’s history? How should we change and grow and prosper? What could I say as an old colleague and a new president to inspire hope for the future? People were depending on me for leadership, inspiration, and vision. I felt like it was our time and we needed to move, but how?
One afternoon that summer, as these questions were swimming in my brain, I was enjoying a video with my children. One particular scene in this film seemed to be speaking directly to me. As I listened to the dialogue about a character who was struggling with returning home and facing the past, it struck home for me that we at the college needed to both hold to the past and face the future. Change was coming. We needed a new beginning, a way to collectively envision our future while, at the same time, addressing unprecedented challenges. In the movie, the character thought he was afraid to return to his past, but he was really afraid of his future. In the end, he embraced his future, just as our college had to embrace its future. I had dreams for what our college could become. As the new president, I knew it was vital that I convey my core belief that change is good. Out of this core belief, I came to recognize the intimate connection between change and hope, that hope is nested in change, and within hope is the fuel and energy to move us with passion toward an exciting future.
I told the story of watching the movie with my children at that opening-day meeting, and change became a hallmark of my early presidency. We came out of that financial crisis as a much stronger college focused on the success of our students. Little did I know at the time how a character in a kid’s movie would crystallize for me the importance of change and the connection between change and hope.
This leader’s story speaks to the power of story to inspire people to change in response to a crisis. The president used the story of watching the movie with his children to inspire the members of the institution and enable them to face together what needed to be faced. Hope shared is all the more powerful in its energy.
About the authors
Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.
TODAY IS THE LAUNCH OF THE NEW BOOK “THE LEADERSHIP KILLER” BY BILL TREASURER AND JOHN HAVLIK. THEY HAVE CONTRIBUTED TODAY’S POST AS A TEASER FOR THIS TIMELY LOOK INTO THE STATE OF LEADERSHIP.
THIS IS A GREAT BOOK FOR US NOT TO “PITCHFORK” AND SAY “SO AND SO COULD REALLY USE THIS” BUT TO DEEPLY LOOK INTO OURSELVES AND HOW THE LEADERSHIP KILLER CAN AFFECT EACH OF US IN OUR ABILITY TO LEAD OTHERS. I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO HELP US KEEP NECESSARY GUARDRAILS IN OUR QUEST FOR POSITIVE IMPACT IN OUR LEADERSHIP.
First, you might ask yourself, what is the Leadership Killer? And to that I say, good question indeed. As a leadership consultant for more than 20 years, I’ve come to recognize definitive patterns in styles and behaviors of good leaders. There are key characteristics that bolster the leader and there are certain habits that will take the leader and their team down. One of these habits is what I call The Leadership Killer. There’s a little Killer in all of us and if that doesn’t sound ominous to you, you might already be in trouble.
My friend of 30+ years, Captain John “Coach” Havlik, Navy SEAL (Retired), and I recently co-authored a new book, The Leadership Killer: Reclaiming Humility in an Age of Arrogance. We wrote the book while examining hubris and the role it plays in killing leadership. Hubris, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “exaggerated pride or self-confidence.” Other authorities define it as dangerous overconfidence. Neither definition sounds like something you should want to aspire to as either a new or experienced leader. Rather, your goal is to avoid this at all costs—either by never becoming hubristic or taking a good hard look at yourself in the mirror and changing your ways tout suite, if you’ve already headed in that direction.
How Dare We Talk About Good Leadership?
John and I aren’t shy when it comes to admitting that we’ve both fallen prey to the Killer, hubris. We have both been the victims of our own ego-driven self-sabotage. We are seasoned, but not unscathed. Many of the lessons we offer in our book were earned the hard way, through our own faulty and arrogant leadership styles. We suspect though, that you’d rather avoid similar circumstances and instead learn from a couple of guys who have “been there, done that.” Whatever bad you’ve done as a leader in the past, put it in the ground so those good leaders can grow. If you’re just starting your leadership journey, grow where lessons are cultivated. Those are the best environments for learning and ensuring your path will be challenging and rewarding.
Speedbumps are Inevitable
No one can choose a leadership career and expect it to be easy. As you progress, you will face many challenges, obstacles, and setbacks. Be thankful for that, because facing them is how you develop and strengthen your leadership. A leader’s character is defined by how he handles, or mishandles, such speedbumps. Speedbumps cause stress, and that stress can increase the temptation to misuse your leadership power. The leader who deftly manages the Killer will be able to learn from speedbumps without skidding off the road.
The Killer is out There
The Killer is deadly serious and means business. Most leaders set out to do good, but even they can be corrupted and the culprit is most often the Killer. So be proactive. LOOK for the Killer in you. Think about a time when life let you know that you’d gotten too cocky, and write down the answers to the following:
- What caused you to become so full of yourself?
- What outcome did the cockiness lead to?
- Now…..think….What did you learn about yourself in the process?
- How do you honor those lessons in the way you lead today?
Knowing that the Killer can strike anytime, this gives you the opportunity to examine past behaviors and the awareness to keep your ego in check before anything unfortunate happens again.
You Get to Decide
You may find it surprising, but what the Killer does with you and your leadership is up to YOU. Hubris wreaks havoc when your self-will runs amok. Hubris appears when you let your leadership power go to your head. The Killer arises from immodesty and immaturity. What tempers hubris, what will bring your leadership back to a career filled with altruism, opportunity, and authenticity is humility. It’s within you just as much as the Killer, but accessing it can be a challenge. You can move from the darkness of hubris in the lightness of humility. Are you ready for the journey?
Bill Treasurer is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting and author of five books on courage and leadership, including the international bestseller, Courage Goes to Work. Giant Leap has led over 1,000 leadership programs across the world for clients that include NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, UBS Bank, and eBay. Treasurer is a former member of the U.S. High Diving Team, and attended West Virginia University on a full athletic scholarship. @BTreasurer www.BillTreasurer.com
CAPT John “Coach” Havlik, U.S. Navy SEAL (Retired), led special operations teams around the world during his 31-year naval career, to include the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, the SEAL’s most elite operational unit. CAPT Havlik was a nationally-ranked swimmer, and is a member of the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame and Mountaineer Legends Society. @CoachHavlik www.CoachHavlik.com
This guest post is from Jim Haudan, the CEO of Root, Inc., a renowned strategy and culture change organization that helps other companies “get their strategy out of the boardroom and into the hearts and minds of everyone in the organization.” Jim has co-authored a new book “What Are Your Blind Spots?” with Rich Berens. Today’s post is an excerpt form the Root Blog and highlight some of the principles in their book.
Words are poor conveyers of meaning. Pictures can be one of the most versatile tools in any leader’s toolbox. Michelangelo started the David in 1501 at the age of 26 and famously said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” He was intensely focused on freeing the slumbering figures in the stone.
Similarly, Picasso was able to visualize and capture realism in his painting from a young age, and evolved so immensely throughout his career eventually co-founded the cubist movement.
For many of us, our best “artistic” moments happen on a napkin sketch at the kitchen table or at a bar. We use images, lines, stars, circles and arrows to first capture an idea. Then share it with someone else. That person’s perspective and questions are what encourage us to revise the sketch and improve its clarity and meaning.
The conversation around our napkin art is what drives the a-ha moment, the excitement. You, as a leader, can use visualization and visual iteration to free the figures (or your people) slumbering within your organization, and drive innumerable a-ha moments.
Here are three ways to do just that:
- Use visualization to create clear meaning
Even the most common terms in strategic plans (words like operational excellence, customer centric, innovation, accountability, high performance, collaboration, vision) suffer from lack of meaning. Instead, define meaning with a picture. Have each member of your team draw a picture of what a high performance team looks like to them.
Compare the pictures. Then create a single image made up of the strongest elements of each person’s initial drawing. As a team, tell one story (accompanied by the picture) of what a high performance team means. Pictures drive common understanding in a way that words often cannot.
- Use visualization to think in systems
Many of the most complex issues we face are systems issues. It is hard to understand a system unless we can see it. Consider systems such as how we make money, or how to execute our business model. It’s tough to imagine without a diagram.
One well-known manufacturer found itself with hundreds of millions of dollars painfully tied up in working capital. The company tried unsuccessfully to reduce this amount for two years.
Finally it used imagery, pictures and metaphors to illustrate where the money came from, where it went, and how much is left afterwards. The business engaged all of its people to better understand how its economic system worked. Within six months, the company had freed up $300 million of working capital. Pictures make invisible systems tangible.
- Use visualization to frame a process
Customer acquisition, supply chain, and new product/ process development are just three examples of key business processes. Many process errors occur at the handoff points where clarity of workflow between departments and people is not always clear and co-owned.
Instead, visualize or blueprint a major process step by step and highlight the key handoffs that often become the “process busters” for the most important processes in your organization.
If Aristotle was right when he said the soul never thinks without a picture, and if everyone is right when they say a picture is worth a thousand words, then a grand visual metaphor for achieving organizational goals can be priceless.
When a picture is clear in our mind’s eye, we can make sense of it. When it is not clear, it is nearly impossible to take action on it. So, it doesn’t have to be the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but every extraordinary leader must know how to paint a picture for their people of where they are and where they want to go.
About Jim Haudan
Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc. Root Inc., the organizational change expert on helping companies create leadership alignment, execute strategies and change successful, build employee engagement, and transform businesses. He is a sought-after business presenter who has spoken at TEDx BGSU, Tampa TEDx, and The Conference Board. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc. The book equips readers with the tools needed for a personal leadership reset. You’ll discover how to increase engagement, productivity, and growth in your own organization.