Leadership Development

Leading to Avoid Infectious Behavior

Grumpiness and Stupidity are Remarkably Contagious Old-timers will remember that the Osmonds topped the pop charts in 1971 when they sang, One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch.” But when it comes to leading others to work together, this mantra just isn’t so. On the contrary, grumpiness and stupidity are remarkably contagious.

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Leaders Who See in 3D

Years ago a friend gave me a picture book that promised to enable the viewer to “see what is invisible.” It was my first experience with stereograms, those incredible 3D images that look like a collection of jumbled shapes and colors, until you adjust your focus. At first it was frustrating. I really had to train my eyes to see in another way, to look beyond the two-dimensional surface. But once I did, all of a sudden the hidden image “appears” in 3D right before my eyes.

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Lead With Meaning That Matters

Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman was asked to oversee a group of engineers who were tasked to perform a seemingly endless series of tedious calculations. The math wasn’t especially difficult for these engineers, but the work proceeded very slowly, and was full of errors. Feynman realized the problem wasn’t the math, but that the engineers were disengaged. He finally convinced his superiors to let the engineers in on the secret – they were performing calculations that would enable them to complete the race to build the atomic bomb before the Germans did. Their work would win the war. From that point forward, the engineers worked 10 times faster than before, with few mistakes and with fierce commitment. Does your leadership provide people with meaning that matters?  The question might sound more like this: What is the overarching purpose that sustains our collective commitment to excellence in the tedious, less glamorous tasks of our day-to-day work? Does the work itself matter to us?

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Leaders Who Self-Sabotage

Most leaders say they want to finish well. Yet the majority don’t.  Money, sex, pride, power, family problems, and stagnation are big barriers facing leaders who want to finish well. But what causes leaders to fall prey to these pitfalls?  Why do successful, talented, and bright leaders so often sabotage their professional and personal lives through immoral and destructive behavior?

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Leadership In The “Worthiness Era”

A middle-aged woman complained on Facebook about the lousy service she received at a local hot dog counter. She wrote, “The hot dogs were delicious, but the waiter was down-right rude.” She continued, “I’ll be looking for hot dogs someplace else.” Her post got lots of supportive responses.  In the “Worthiness Era,” good products must be matched by good behavior.

We’ve heard enough news of Fortune 500 companies that shirk taxes while padding profits.  Firms that make a widget, rake in revenue, but foul the planet.  CEOs  abuse their privilege, then bail out with a multi-million dollar parachute. Is this just more evidence that bad guys finish first?  Maybe. But a different story is unfolding.

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Spotting Leadership Potential

The real leaders in many organizations are not obvious by their positions. Often they are hidden, but identifying them for development and future leadership is critical to the organization’s success. Based on observation in diverse organizational sectors that span the globe, here are four indicators to spot leadership potential. Identifying people for leadership roles who possess these latent abilities – even if they are still in raw form – is crucial since these characteristics are more difficult to cultivate within adults.

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Lionizing J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover A 2011 film featured Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s Director for nearly fifty years. DiCaprio aptly depicted this 20th century symbol of unbridled political power whose abusive leadership was well known. Yet presidents, the press, and ordinary citizens venerated Hoover even as he perpetrated reprehensible acts, including blackmailing politicians and railroading innocent people to protect informants. Today the FBI building in Washington, D.C. still proudly bears his name. Hoover’s legacy follows a predictable response pattern to leaders who manipulate, mistreat, and undermine their followers: we frequently lionize them. Toxic Leaders Most people claim they abhor toxic leaders. Yet we often follow them – from the Catholic Church’s Cardinal Bernard Law, to the Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, to “junk bond king” Michael Milken – and remain under their spell even when we clearly know their corruption and cruelty.

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The Badgers Are Good For Basketball

The magical ride of the Wisconsin Badgers included a national semifinal victory over the previously undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Although their season ended in a heartbreaking loss for the national championship, the story of Wisconsin’s coach and most celebrated player is one for the record books. After Catholic prep school in Lisle, Illinois, Frank Kaminski came to the University of Wisconsin to play basketball for Coach Bo Ryan. As a freshman, Kaminski was a lackluster performer. His season-high scoring effort was nine points. Kaminski’s second season was pretty much a carbon copy of the first. He averaged 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. He mostly rode the bench. But Coach Ryan spotted promise in the shy, gangly kid from Lisle. So Ryan pushed him to give nothing less than his best. He made Kaminsky sweat and fight for a starter role. And Ryan communicated to Frank that he could be great. Ryan’s investment paid off. At the end of Kaminsky’s junior season, he was named to the first team All-Big Ten. He scored 28 points and had 11 rebounds as Wisconsin defeated #1 seed Arizona to advance to the Final Four.

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What al Qaeda Can Teach the Church

A Decentralized Leadership Structure Osama bin Laden, former core leader of al Qaeda, and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was killed by US Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011. Yet al Qaeda has continued to advance throughout the Muslim-majority world since bin Laden’s death. Multiple reasons contribute to their persistent progress, but one key issue stands out: al Qaeda’s decentralized leadership structure. Within a few months after bin Laden’s death, it was tragically clear that national security had not stopped al Qaeda’s growth. Their spread of terror is not dependent on any single leader. Al Qaeda has a formal core group at its head providing overall direction, but there is a critical underlying structure that makes them more adaptive and resilient. Al Qaeda is a network made up of many affiliate-to-affiliate relationships, growing and multiplying independently, making it very difficult to control or defeat them. These affiliates have evolved and now threaten the United States as much as (if not more than) the core group. Proponents for civilized societies agree that al Qaeda is a collection of barbarians who commit heinous acts in the name of Allah. But this terrorist organization also gets something right: al Qaeda’s movements have been impossible to destroy because their “success” is not dependent on a core leader.

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Hillary’s Distorted Lens

Hillary Clinton’s private email server “scandal” has dominated most news outlets this week. In her role as Secretary of State, all emails on that server were supposed to be a matter of public record. Her resistance to turn over some of those emails has drawn sharp criticism from both sides of the political aisle. Julie Pace, AP White House correspondent wrote, “It’s difficult for [Hillary Clinton’s] complicated explanations about allegations to compete with the simplicity of political perception.” Her response signals a blurred lens through which she sees reality.

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Leadership Matters

We believe that leaders make a huge difference in people's lives.