Leadership Inspiration for 2010

Happy New Year!  For the start of 2012, here is a bit of leadership inspiration from Mike Myatt, Forbes.com contributor and a leadership advisor to CEOs & Boards, and author of the book Leadership Matters.

This One Leadership Quality Will Make or Break You

One of the most often overlooked aspects of leadership is the need for pursuit. Great leaders are never satisfied with traditional practice, static thinking, conventional wisdom, or common performance. In fact, the best leaders are simply uncomfortable with anything that embraces the status quo.  Leadership is pursuit – pursuit of excellence, of elegance, of truth, of what’s next, of what if, of change, of value, of results, of relationships, of service, of knowledge, and of something bigger than themselves. In the text that follows I’ll examine the value of being a pursuer…

The conclusion of the article says. . . “All leaders would be well served to go back to school on what I refer to as the science of pursuitology.” Read the full text here.

[Editors Note: I like Myatt’s new term: pursuitology.😉 ]

Learn to Adapt

The only constant is change.

This philosophy dates back to the ancient greeks and has never been more true than it is today.

As a professional, you MUST be able to adapt to change.  Organizations expand and downsize, markets gyrate wildly, partnerships emerge and dissolve.  Adaptability is a key success factor in your career and it is a skill you can practice and develop. Read more

Do You Have Executive Presence?

Executive presence refers to one’s ability to look and act like an executive or a leader.  Think of an actor auditioning for the leading role in a movie– he has to look like and act like the character in order to be credible and convince the director.  Even if you are not an executive today, this is an important skill to master.

“Executive presence” is a broad term that includes your body language, personal appearance and dress, your mannerisms and gestures, the way you speak and the way you shake hands when greeting someone.  If you are not convinced that having an executive presence is important, you should consider that companies such as Intel and Morgan Stanley have launched training programs focused on these skills for their employees.  And these days, large companies don’t invest money in teaching their employees skills unless it is important.

Executive coaches can be helpful by providing a non-biased assessment of your executive presence and methods to improve these skills.  Start by observing your co-workers, managers and other business leaders in your organization.  Can you identify a few people with an executive presence that you admire and want to imitate?

Read “How to Look and Act Like a Leader” by Joann S. Lublin on the WSJ.com for additional resources.

Earn that Promotion — Become an MVP!

In his blog, John Keyser, outlines principals for success in your career.  Here is his list– the last bullet point summarizes the other points:    Become the MVP in the eyes of everyone for all you do.

  • Be positive, enthusiastic, and a source of positive energy.
  • Make things happen. Don’t wait. Contribute ideas. When you see something that should be done, do it or make the suggestion to the appropriate person.
  • Be authentic, yourself, and honest with people. Read more

Increased Focus on ‘Soft Skills’ at Top MBA Programs

Many top MBA programs are increasing their focus on ‘soft skills.’  Why?

These are critical skills for all professional.  Whether you currently manage a team of 2, 20 or 200 people, skills such as speaking respectfully to subordinates, teamwork, and managing your own stress are all very important and will have a major impact on your success as a manager and a leader.

Traditionally, MBA programs have focused on the technical or ‘hard skills’ such as economics, finance and accounting.  There are a number of reasons for this including the fact that grading students in these subjects is more straightforward and lack of respect for ‘soft skills’ courses on the part of students and employers.  Also, many of the jobs that are filled by new MBAs do require these technical skills, so it becomes a Catch-22.  How far one advances beyond that first job will be largely determined by the ‘soft skills’ or ‘people skills.’

There is good news here for professionals without a business school background. . . many of the interpersonal skills needed to be a successful business manager and a leader of people are not learned in the classroom.

Read the full WSJ.com article by Mellissa Korn and Joe Light.

Empathy Communicates Trust

When I first started reading Peter Bregman’s blog post on the Harvard Business Review, I appreciated the advice he offered as the father of a 3 year old. I tucked this away in the mental file for the times my son has a similar experience.

As the article continued, I wasn’t sure how Bregman would turn this anecdote about a nine-year old girl who was disqualified from her swim meet into a business lesson which would be applicable to the workplace.  And in two simple sentences he does it:

“Empathy communicates trust. And people perform best when they feel trusted.”

It is that simple.  Leadership is about being authentic and there is nothing more authentic than practicing empathy with others.