Freedom: At What Cost?

As we celebrate the 237th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, ask yourself what freedom means to you; what will you sacrifice for freedom.

These United States have changed in unimaginable ways since 1776.  The Founding Fathers could not begin to fathom things as they are today.  However, the Founding Documents ring as true now as they did then.  All you have to do is put them into context by understanding the reason and emotion the writers had.

When the Founding Documents are read without bias of political blinders and without the “righteous” outlook many have today – enlightenment can happen.

The Declaration of Independence did just that – it informed King George III that we no longer wished to be part of the British Empire, the United States would govern themselves.

Although the first shot of the Revolution was on April 19, 1775 the pot began to boil much earlier.  Those involved in securing freedom and beginning a new nation were impassioned they knew their challenge would demand sacrifice.

We all know the sacrifice the Colonial Army and Navy incurred.  Sacrifice is expected from the military.  Many families endured sacrifices as the British fought a “scorched earth” policy to encourage capitulation from the Americans.

A story not as well known is that of Abraham and Sarah Clark.  Abraham Clark was a delegate from New Jersey and a signer of the Declaration.  Two of his boys were officers in the Continental Army.  The British captured the Clark brothers and placed them on the prison ship Jersey.  One was fed only as much as could be shoved through a keyhole.  Their freedom could be secured if Abraham Clark denounced his support of the Declaration.  After much thought and counsel with his wife, he stood by his convictions and did NOT denounce his support.  His son died on the prison ship.  The other one released after some time died young.  That is sacrifice.

What are you willing to sacrifice?  Today, if no other, you could read the Declaration of Independence and try to understand its true meaning.  The Constitution should be mandatory reading; today could be the day for that.  The Federalists Papers provides insight to the Founders thoughts and reasonings.

Spending an hour of the day telling your children the true meaning of the Fourth of July is a simple start.  Using your day off to read legislation, or writing your Representatives and let them know that you, their boss, are watching them and holding them accountable.

A simple sacrifices can be made; your time.  Take an active role in your government; that is the only way to ensure freedom lasts

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How is Your Leadership?

With Valentine’s Day gone for this year, it is time to ask “How good of a leader am I?” Now is the time to reflect on that question because the relationship and support you receive from your significant other affects all other aspects of your life. Valentine’s Day provides the focus on whom that significant other is; the most important person in your life, your foundation.

The foundational support they provide allows you to build a structure everyone will see. Without a solid foundation the exposed structure will collapse. The structure here is leadership. The façade of a building cannot exist without a structure holding it. Likewise, you cannot keep up the façade of leadership if your structure is not sound. Your structure cannot stand if the foundation is not sound. Therefore, if your foundation (the relationship with your significant other) is not sound you cannot even pretend to be a leader.

Another way to state the above is: to be a leader you must have a strong and supportive relationship with your loved one. How? Part of the answer is being a leader at home. Demonstrating the basic qualities of leadership: honor, integrity, respect, and empathy go a long way in beginning a strong relationship (whether in or outside the home). Secondly, understand your partner; know what pleases them and what upsets them. After you understand those generalities, cooperate within your relationship to remove, as much as possible, the upsetting factors in your partner’s life; in line with a servant leader removing obstacles. Continuing as a servant leader and cooperating with your partner, build on each other’s strengths; this will improve the performance of your relationship.

With Valentine’s Day gone for this year, it is time to ask “How good is my relationship?” Your ability to answer this question is the first step in answering the question of your ability to lead. Lead at home before you can even imagine leading outside of your home.

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Say “No” to the “Yes” Man

As the work week begins, analyze anew and plan for the success of your company. The foremost concern is how to trim the fat.  Areas in which to look are: the “yes” man, those that fawn, and you.

Why do “leaders” surround themselves with “yes” men or people that fawn over them? The intuitive answer is insecurity. How better to enhance self-confidence than having people constantly agree with you or grovel at your feet for the scraps at your table?  Else, there is narcissism, having those that completely agree with you or bend to your every need is a fitting meal for a large ego.

A company will not grow if only one man opines and the masses abstain. Presenting opposing viewpoints and debate, or war gaming, provide the stimulus that encourages and nurtures growth. If the “leader,” however, provides the only viewpoint, is always correct, and the best growth is done by him alone, then he need not surround himself with anyone. This extraordinary leader may fire those whose counsel he seeks saving monies for reinvestment. Otherwise, your “yes” man is an empty chair. He receives your money only to agree with you and provide no original insight. He is useless, let him go.

Or, if he abstains from commenting because of your narcissism, and the “yes man” feels he will be punished in some way for dissenting, then you should look in the mirror and question if you are the best for the company.

As for those that fawn for you, they are using your narcissism to their indulgence. They constantly try to earn your favor for a pay raise, a promotion, or the corner office. Do they truly appreciate you as much as they seem or are you a means to the end? Most likely, they laugh with their friends about how they coerce you and they beat their chests over their accomplishments. However, they likely have few true friends because they use their persuasive power to help themselves, which is counter to developing true social relationships.

As a leader it is imperative to surround yourself with experts. Each person with whom you seek counsel should know more about their subject of expertise than you. If not, find someone who does. Your counselor provides ideas to you, not the other way around. Now you have competence around you not “yes” men.  Moreover, you need to be humble in order to accept their guidance, yet courageous enough apply their guidance or not.

As for those who fawn.  They are using their time and energy for their own profit not yours. Seek those that use their time and energy to promote your ideas and have the leadership to accomplish your goals. Those that are successful will be rewarded more so than those that curries your favor.  Their success increases the company succeeds and, therefore, reward is increased.

As the work week begins, analyze anew and plan for the success of your company; trim the fat and serve the meat.

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Middle Management Integrity

On January 29, Melissa Korn wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal, “For Middle Managers, Integrity May Not Count for Much.” 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB40001424127887323701904578273401157534628.html?mod=djemITPE_h

When I first read the headline I found it difficult to believe.  At least in part.  The data producing this statement was based on information collected from middle managers and top executives.  And it is difficult to believe that these groups of managers would admit integrity is not important.  However, as a casual observer, it is antidotically apparent that integrity is lost, or at least misplaced, in managers and executives.

Then I read the headline again.  “For Middle Managers…”  ah, there is the key word: managers.  If they hired leaders to manage then integrity would not be an issue.  Looking at the levels of influence (which is what leaders do – leverage influence) as depicted in Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady and @OrrinWoodward a middle manager should be a “Level 3” leader.  They should be using their understanding of the work of their subordinates (“Level 1” – Learn) and their demonstrated ability to master that work (“Level 2” – perform) as a means to lead.  But there is more to it than that.  To be a leader there are universal truths.  The authors hit on it in Revolution, but it does not matter from where you learned leadership; there are truths.  One of the most important is that a leader has integrity.

Without integrity a leader can not be trusted to do the right thing.  Integrity is, essentially, “doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.”  If your leader has no integrity, then what are they doing?  Because someone is always watching.  Their actions set the standard for the followers; do they show up late, leave early, display an irreverent work ethic?  Their followers will soon follow and their production will suffer – if you are only looking at the bottom line.  Beyond the bottom line, how does their acquired work ethic, or attitude, transfer to their home life?  Are they teaching their children, through their actions, that mediocrity is acceptable?  That overachieving, or even being great, is a fool’s errand?

That may be harsh, but not too far off base.  A leader makes hard decisions for the betterment of their team (or family) and because they have integrity no one doubts that they will abide by the rules they set.  They are an example to be admired.  But, if one can achieve through acts alone with no correlation to character – then all is lost as the middle managers continue to aspire upwards.  They already say, as do executives, that integrity does not matter to become a manager.  They don’t realize they won’t gain integrity as an executive.  Integrity does not develop overnight, it is honed throughout a lifetime. 

The fact that we build and reward managers and not leaders may be a reason for the softening of a culture.  Everyone, especially those that have people work for them, need to strive to be a leader, or become a better leader.  We all need to further educate ourselves by using the life experience of others from which to learn (i.e. read).  By applying those life lessons to our lives we can be better leaders.  As we gain influence we will develop leaders.  And, as leadership spreads, we will strengthen our culture and truly become world leaders.

Start reading, read many types of books on leadership and derive your style.

#in

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Leadership v. Management

They’re not the same?  I would say “no, they are not the same” and many other leadership experts would agree.  You don’t have to be in a leadership role to be a leader.  Not all managers are leaders and the foremost leader in your office may not be the manager. Leadership, as view by many, is the ability to influence others.  This influence does not stop with your subordinates.  To be a true leader you impart influence on your peers and highers as well.

Synonymous with influence is power.  There are five types or sources of power that allow you to have influence over others.  The five are reward, coercive, legitimate, referent, and expert.  The first two sources regard giving a reward or a penalty (leaving early or being “volun-told” to work late).  Although these are tools to influence people, they only go so far and only work down the ladder.  Legitimate power is holding a position.  A manager has legitimate power but, again, that only works down.  Referent power involves people being drawn to you and, thereby, they give you power, or the ability, to influence them.  As an example:  celebrities are able to hawk products or can influence people to vote one way or another.  They have been given this power because people admire them.  The final power, or way to influence, is expert power.  You are the expert in your field and this influence radiates in all directions.  People in higher positions refer to you – you can influence their decisions, your peers confer with you – you can influence their decisions and, finally, people who work for you know they can trust your decisions.

Having expert power is the best, in my opinion, influence to wield.  You have a larger sphere of influence, you will gain referent power, your knowledge may gain you legitimate power, and you won’t have to resort to reward or coercive power.  But, you do have to stay an expert, continually learning and teaching.  Having influence (no matter which of the five you have) is just the beginning steps of being a leader.  You need people to want to follow you.

“If I have influence, why doesn’t anyone follow me?”  The influence is only the doorway, but do they respect you?  Normally, people have initial respect for someone with power, especially if it is expert or legitimate.  This is because they respect the knowledge or position, but, they don’t know you yet.  Once they get to know you the respect can be increased or lost.  How?  Your character, your trustworthiness, your level of empathy, your ability to help those down the ladder from you, or your ability to communicate with your peers or those above you all affect the respect you receive.

If you are a manager and find yourself using reward or coercive power to influence those below your – you may have lost their respect and are no longer leading them.  They work to gain a reward (days off = time away from you) or they work for avoidance (you leave them alone and don’t take their time away).  They don’t believe in your vision, they don’t feel as part of a team moving towards a single goal, they don’t have a purpose.  They just want a paycheck.  At this point you are a manager, a dime a dozen.  You are probably not getting the results expected and will soon be replaced by someone that can lead.

Before this happens, you need to conduct an honest self-evaluation and find the areas you need to improve.  A good place to start is usually interpersonal tact.  Ask yourself: “How does someone feel after I talk to them?”  In the worst case they should feel neutral – no different after they interact with you than before – even if you are critical of their performance (remember, criticize the performance, not the person).  However, if they walk away feeling more negative or completely try to avoid you, you may want to work on interpersonal tact – it goes a long way.  But whatever you need to improve (and there may be several things) work on it diligently and track your progress.

Everyone want to follow a leader.  And, everyone thinks they can manage better than someone who is just a manager.  If you want to be successful; be a leader sitting in a manager’s chair.  People will follow you, work for you, and your life will be easier (easier being a relative term).  Being an effective leader and manager allows you time to focus your energies into other areas; areas you enjoy and areas that will get you ahead in your career.  You will be recognized for your productivity and be motivated to continue performing.

This is but the tip of the iceberg.

Good Luck and be a Leader

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Financial Leadership

As my son is playing on his video game system this morning and as part of the game he earns coins (yes, I know I should have him do something to feed his brain – but I will use the hand-eye coordination argument). He can use those coins to “buy” upgrades to his character. He could keep a percentage in the bank and build wealth, but in a video game, what fun is that?

His video game is teaching instant gratification. It is hard to teach financial discipline when he get what he wants in the game – and that item helps him perform better. Claude Hamilton and others talk about delayed gratification and how, although difficult at first, it provides a greater satisfaction. And, more importantly, builds wealth.

“The Richest Man in Babylon” is a book about how to build financial wealth (it is written as a story which makes it a quick read). Although it was written in the 1920’s it is still very relevant today. The principles presented in that book are something I want to instill in my boys. But, overcoming the influence of the video game will be hard.

So, the question is – which is more important their hand-eye coordination and having an electronic babysitter or me being a Dad and spending time with my boys while teaching them principles to be financially sound. The choice is easy, the follow through, however, is difficult. Unless . . . I make them put their games down, that is the first step

He just informed me that he has 4105 coins and “can buy anything in the shop.” He hasn’t yet. Maybe some lessons are getting through.

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Leadership

I am continually reading books and reading social media inputs on leadership and management. It is vitally important to observe leadership through many eyes. To use the experience of others is easier than to live all of their experiences. But, it amazes me how the “new trends” just polish methods already published. And, how they all are compilations of techniques I have used over the last 13 years to lead, develop leaders, and having them develop leaders. It is reassuring to know the techniques and courses of instruction I use are proven in the real world and written about by leadership gurus.

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