You can lead a horse . . .

You can lead a horse

You can lead a horse to water . . .

How many times have you heard that statement? It is an old bit of country wisdom. You can bring your horse to the water trough. But, if he ain’t thirsty, then he ain’t drinkin’.

Now, consider an update to that piece of rural wisdom.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. However, you can salt his oats!

In days gone by, our forefathers knew that if a horse has been sick and is weak and in danger of going down, you can put a little salt in his oats and that salt will draw it to the watering trough and make it want to drink. This is a great analogy of one of the skills that we need as leaders from time to time.

From time to time we will have reluctant followers. Their reluctance may be the result of factors beyond our control. Nevertheless, we have to lead them even when they are not exactly in the mood to be led.

What is the leadership lesson here?

Continue reading “You can lead a horse . . .”

What Sharpens Iron?

What sharpens iron?

What sharpens iron? Every leadership “junkie” has probably been exposed to the Biblical passage from Proverbs that gives us the answer to that very question.

It is iron that sharpens iron. Or at least it is some other substance that is as hard as iron such as a whetstone or grinding wheel. If that is the case, that iron sharpens iron, then what are the implications for you and I as leaders?

We often only look at ourselves as the ones that will be doing the sharpening. But what (or who) is sharpening you? We need to constantly be in contact with something or someone who sharpens our leadership skills.

The first time I was exposed to this concept was many years ago in 1990 when Steven Covey published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Sharpen your saw” is Habit #7. This habit was encouraged so that we take care of ourselves on physical, mental and emotional levels. Only then would we have the “strength” to remain highly effective.

Only the confident and strong leaders will offer themselves to be sharpened by others. In fact, Continue reading “What Sharpens Iron?”

Strongest Following – Weakest Followers

Strongest Following - Weakest Followers

Is your strongest following from your weakest followers?

If so, what does that say about your leadership abilities or style?

Well, you say, “I don’t know.” “What do you mean my ‘weakest followers.’”

Take a look around you. Are you surrounded by strong leaders? Are the people that are the closest to you able to think and act independently? Do you trust them? Are they capable?

I get to observe a lot of different and varied organizations. Some are in the very top tier of the Fortune 500. And some are small to medium sized business. Some are very small entrepreneurial ventures. And some are ministry and non-profit organizations. Each organization has leaders with varied skills and varied “amounts” of leadership ability.

One of the defining characteristics of the top tier leaders is the quality of those who are working the closest with them. That may almost seem like a “Duh!” statement. But stick with me for a second. Continue reading “Strongest Following – Weakest Followers”

Leadership Lessons from the Battle of Shiloh

Leadership Lessons from the Battle of Shiloh

What if we just pressed on a little farther?

That is the question that haunted the generals of the Confederate Army after the Battle of Shiloh.

As I noted last week, I am working my way through an historical novel about the Battle of Shiloh. It is also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing. The battle took place over two days in early April in 1862.

Early on the morning of April 6th in 1862, 40,000 Confederate soldiers under the command of General Johnston poured out of the nearby woods and attacked a line of Union soldiers occupying ground near Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. The overpowering Confederate offensive drove the unprepared Union forces from their camps and threatened to overwhelm General Ulysses S. Grant’s entire army.

Some Union forces made determined stands and by afternoon, they had established a battle line in an area that became known as the “Hornet’s Nest.” Repeated Confederate attacks failed to carry the Hornet’s Nest. But their superior artillery helped to turn the tide as Confederates surrounded the Union troops and captured, killed, or wounded most. Among the first day’s casualties, Confederate General Johnston was mortally wounded and was replaced by General Beauregard.

Fighting continued until after dark, but the Union troops held on precariously.

It was at this point that Continue reading “Leadership Lessons from the Battle of Shiloh”

The Hike to One Tree Hill

Hike to One Tree Hill

Just having a compass doesn’t really make you a leader.

This realization came to me while watching my oldest grandson on a hike yesterday. We were visiting the beautiful Shelburne Farm on the shores of Lake Champlain in Shelburne, VT. At one point in our visit to the farm, we decided to take a hike up a trail to One Tree Hill and look out onto Lake Champlain.

My wife, the greatest Mimi in the universe, had purchased a little something for each of the grandchildren to take on our hike. She had purchased a little magnifying glass for our granddaughter because she loves to stop and explore along the way. And she had purchased a compass for our grandson because he likes to feel like he is in charge and is a leader. Both were ecstatic to receive these gifts. Both were well suited to their temperaments and personalities.

My grandson was convinced that the compass gave him the right to be the leader. He proudly held the compass out in front of himself and proclaimed that we were to move forward in the direction he pointed. Unfortunately, the trailhead was in the opposite direction. Continue reading “The Hike to One Tree Hill”

Victory Is As Exhausting As Defeat

Shiloh Cannon

I am deep into the pages of a historical novel from the Civil War era and that is set at the time of the Battle of Shiloh.

For those of you who are not history buffs or military enthusiasts, I offer the following short synopsis of the battle.

The Battle of Shiloh was a major battle in the Civil War, It was fought Sunday and Monday, April the 6th and 7th of 1862, in the southwestern part of Tennessee. The Union army under Major General Ulysses S. Grant had moved via the Tennessee River deep into Tennessee and was encamped principally near a little church at a place called Pittsburg Landing on the west bank of the river. It was there that Confederate forces under Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and Pierre G. T. Beauregard launched a surprise attack on Grant’s army. General Johnston was killed in action during the fighting and Beauregard, who thus succeeded to command of the army, mate the fateful decision against pressing the attack late in the evening of Sunday the 6th of April. Overnight, General Grant received considerable reinforcements from another Union army under Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell that allowed him to launch an unexpected counterattack the next morning which completely reversed the Confederate gains of the previous day.

One of the main characters of the story is Capt. Michael Grierson: A volunteer with the 5th Texas Artillery. Michael makes several keen observations in the lull that followed the Confederates initial crushing defeat of the Union Army. As he observes the Union prisoners marching past him as he sits astride his horse he observes the situation and sums if up this way: Continue reading “Victory Is As Exhausting As Defeat”

Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry – Part 2

AI - Part 2

Earlier in the week I tried to provide a bit of an overview of what Appreciative Inquiry is all about. The most concise definition I can provide is that it is a way of looking at challenges in a more positive manner.

As a reminder, here are the five principles of AI from my earlier article:

  • The Constructionist Principle
  • The Simultaneity Principle
  • The Poetic Principle
  • The Anticipatory Principle
  • The Positive Principle

I invite you back to that article for a synopsis of each of those principles.  Click this link to review that article.

This article is about the process that comes out of the questioning and positive approach to what many would call “problem solving.” Continue reading “Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry – Part 2”

Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry – Part 1

AI - Part 1

I had a “vigorous” discussion several months ago with someone whose opinion I have always valued. I have not always agreed with it. And in fact, I did not agree with it in the context of that vigorous discussion. However, I had reflected upon something that he said to me and have decided to put make of those thoughts available to Leadership Voices.

He challenged me to consider the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Model rather than the model of problem solving that I tend to employ. I was not as versed in AI as he. And you may not be as well. If so, consider this quick definition of AI.

Appreciative inquiry (AI) is a model for analysis, decision-making and the creation of strategic change, particularly within companies and other organizations. It was developed at Case Western Reserve University’s department of organizational behavior, starting with a 1987 article by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva. They felt that the overuse of “problem solving” as a model often held back analysis and understanding, focusing on problems and limiting discussion of new organizational models.

The model is based on the assumption that the questions we ask will tend to focus our attention in a particular direction. The more common methods of assessing and evaluating a situation and then proposing solutions are based on what AI terms a “deficiency model.” Some of these more common methods ask questions such as “What are the problems?”, “What’s wrong?” or “What is broken and needs to be fixed?”.

Appreciative Inquiry has 5 Principles: Continue reading “Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry – Part 1”