Is leading a quiet activity or a loud activity?

SsshhhThat is a strange question. Isn’t it?

Here is what I mean. Is real leadership something that you can undertake without ever raising your voice?

My son’s kindergarten teacher was Mrs. McGrath. She was a very soft-spoken woman. In fact, whenever she needed to get the children’s attention she would whisper. No matter what was going on in the classroom and no matter how rowdy the children were, she would stop what she was doing and speak in a voice that was nearly a whisper. And one by one the children would quiet down and come over to where she was standing or sitting and would get as close to her as they could. Why? Because they wanted to know what great secret she was about to share with them.

Now contrast that with the drill sergeant that assisted my dad through basic training during the Korean War. There was probably not a lot of whispering going on there. In fact that drill sergeant probably got up close and personal and spoke in such a way as there was no way my dad misunderstood what he was saying.

Two very distinctive communication styles. Both individuals were demonstrating great leadership. But it would be hard to find two more opposite styles.

So, is leadership a quiet or loud activity?

Who inspires you to be a leader?

We have launched the blog with some fairly challenging and thought provoking articles.  I say “Thank you” to those of you who are actively participating so far.  That seems altogether appropriate on this morning after Thanksgiving. You have been some of the first to step up and put your thoughts down “on paper” for others to read and to open yourself to others comments.

But I am trying to build momentum in the conversation and draw more into the flow.  And I wondering this morning about a question of inspiration.  My question is this.

Who inspires you to become a great leader?

I don’t necessarily mean a well known or a popular leader. And I am not necessarily looking for the overtly religious answer.  But who is your source of inspiration for leadership?  Who do you look to for guidance?  Who do you feel is demonstrating practical and functional expertise in the various areas of leadership?

The follow-up question is obvious.  Why are they an inspiration?  What about them inspires you?

Winston-ChurchillI will be brave and provide one of my favorite leaders of all time.  He is Winston Churchill.  Recently read a very short biography of his life.  He was indeed a very colorful character and led a very interesting life.  I am not endorsing his style or his activities in all facets of life.  As many know, his family situation was a bit of a train wreck.  But when Great Britain, and indeed the western world, needed a stalwart and steadfast leader, Winston Churchill had positioned himself in such a way that he could lead that nation through its darkest hour and in to its finest hour.  His attitude of high expectation and never give up spirit inspired a nation and the world to overcome the aggressive Nazi savagery and that nation helped put an end to World War II.

Now what about you?  Who inspires you?  And why do they inspire you?  What is an example of their leadership that comes to your mind quickly when you think of that person?



Leadership begins at home

Simple HouseIf I believe anything about leadership, it is this.  Leadership begins at home.

But just what does that mean?

I believe that it means that the primary place for leadership to be modeled and for it to flourish is in the context of home life.  As a husband it is my responsibility to be the Spiritual leader of my home.  That is a topic that I know someone will develop much more fully than I will at this point.  But suffice it to say that being a leader in this area is unlike any other leadership role.

But there is more leadership to be modeled in the home.  The role of father is also unlike any other.  Again, this is way too important to cover this briefly.  But here is a tidbit.  It has been said that the greatest gift a father can give his children is to really love their mother.  Here is leadership by example of the highest magnitude.

We are only scratching the surface of the topic of leadership in the home.  And this is obviously only a male perspective.  But I am posting this to further probe the various aspects of leadership that we need to explore.  The role of wife and mother is equal in significance to that of husband and father.  Equal, but very different.  And that difference and equality is part of the mystery of how we are made as men and women.

Who will be brave and begin to develop this a little further?

On Any Given Sunday

NFL FootballI am doing something this year that I have never done before.  I am participating in a fantasy football league.  It is an odd thing really.  I don’t particularly care for professional football.  But that is the subject for another time.

Currently I am in sixth place out of a league of ten teams.  I am diligently trying to set my roster in such a way as to give me the greatest chance of success.  A very good friend is managing another team.  He is in last place.

And here is the odd part.  One of the teams really isn’t being managed at all.  In fact, the team was selected randomly and the roster has not even been tweaked since the opening weekend of football.  He has made zero, zilch, nada changes to the roster.  And that guy’s team is in seventh place!  So you see, I am only slightly better than a team that was picked at random and is running on autopilot.

Now what does this little story have to do with leadership?

It has to do with a certain saying or cliche in our culture and in the football world.  The saying in professional football is “On any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team.”  That is a paraphrase.  But it is close enough.  The thrust of the saying is that it is quite possible for even a less skilled or talented team to beat a better team.  Mostly that is due to some random acts of weather and referees and how the ball tumbles and fumbles.  And my little fantasy football league at work certainly bears that out.  In fact the totally random team has a better record than 2 other teams that are trying very hard to compete and win each week.

So, as coaches, managers and leaders do we just let things happen by the luck of the draw?  Do we just stand on the sidelines and watch the game as though we are spectators?  If we do, we may not be in first place, but clearly we aren’t in last place.

No, I think this situation with the fantasy football is a bit of a statistical anomally.  I firmly believe that studying the opponent, fielding a well trained team and exploiting any opportunities or mistakes that the other guys make is a better formula for success than idle randomness.  And leadership is all about assessing the situation and leading a team to victory in an active and deliberate manner.

So, what do you think?


Veteran’s Day

Today, in the U.S., it is Veteran’s Day.  And I have several family members and close friends who have worn the uniform of the United States of America.  Although it is not my intention to turn this dialog into one that is centered on the military.  But, I would be remiss if I failed to reflect on the the subject of leadership while in the shadow of Veteran’s Day.

So, I will take as non-partisan approach as I possibly can and make it short and sweet as I reflect on leadership within the context of the military.

A colleague and very dear friend at work has a quote anchored in the signature block of every email that he sends.  It is a quote by General George S. Patton.  That quote is this:

Patton Quote 1

I plan to spend a great deal of time in the coming days dealing with many aspects of leadership.  But, I don’t ever want to lose sight of the fact that sometimes as a leader we must stand back and let our “troops” do what they have been trained to do or what they can figure out using their God-given talents and abilities.  This may sound a little laissez-faire or soft to you.  I don’t think anyone would ever confuse “Old Blood and Guts” with someone who was soft.  So, if he was willing to adopt this approach from time to time, then there must be a leadership principle in there somewhere.

Don’t you think?