Tag Archives: Courage

My Interview With Talent Management Magazine

I’m honored to be featured in the most recent Talent Management magazine. The following is an excerpt from the interview. Special thanks to Lauren Dixon for taking the time to speak with me.

Leadership Lessons From Superheroes

talent mgmtAs Ben Parker, uncle of comic book superhero Spider-Man, said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

In “Cape, Spandex, Briefcase: Leadership Lessons From Superheroes,” author David Kahn, an academic and leadership author and teacher, tells the fictional story of another Ben, an executive director at POW! PR Inc. who rose in ranks but is failing as a team leader. His boss refers him to a leadership coach, Chief, who runs a comic book store.

Chief shares that good superheroes benefit from their actions more than their superpowers. The same goes for leaders in reality. And even though Kahn’s book is a work of fiction, its story provides plenty of credible and valuable lessons for aspiring leaders.

Talent Management spoke with Kahn about leadership skills and coaches. Edited excerpts follow.

How can prospective leaders find a coach?

I think there are a lot of ways to find a coach. There are a lot of professional coaches out there who are fantastic. That is definitely one way to find a coach. The other way is to find the people in your life who inspire you and who have experience and are smarter than you and are willing to share what they know…

Click here to read more.

Weekender: Bryan Cranston on Courageous Personal Growth

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 10: Actor Bryan Cranston poses for a portrait at the Broadcast Television Journalists Association's Third Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards on June 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for CCTA)

Welcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a gram of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just a gram? Because it’s the weekend!

It’s easy to get into a rut. It starts with being too comfortable, then you’re resisting changes that challenge your comfort, and before you know it, you sound like a colleague of mine who told me yesterday, “Why bother changing my leadership style? This has worked for a long time so I’ll do it when the CEO directs the entire management team to do it.”

For a little context, she’s only 32 years old (not quite an “old dog who can’t learn a new trick”) and all I suggested was that she start asking more questions when she meets with her team. If she’s reading this, and I hope she is, maybe Bryan Cranston can provide a more convincing argument then I did.

You can either take a proactive or a reactive point of view. And we know a lot of people that are like, ‘Hey, do you need a job flipping burger?’ [And their response is] ‘Guess I’m flipping burgers now.’… You’re reacting to stimulus as oppose to forging ahead and saying, ‘No, I don’t want that.’

So if you put yourself in a position to increase your odds of having an experience, that’s where you want to be. You want to try something new. You want to be courageous and do something that you have not done before… As we get older, we have a tendency to say, ‘This is what I do and this is what I don’t do.’ We stagnate in our growth. Even if it’s a small thing, take a chance. Try it.

Find the courage to take proactive steps in developing you and your team. Don’t allow passive “Guess I’m doing _________ now.” Instead, generate a culture where people feel empowered. This will enable them to own their actions, not fall into them. And with empowerment comes engagement, increased productivity, and a team that thrives on continuous self-improvement.

Violent Femmes on Becoming a Unique Leader

Violent FemmesIn leadership development, we often talk about the benefits of modeling others’ behaviors. “Find other leaders who are inspirational,” we say, “and try to be more like them.” This is solid advice…to a point. Mimicking can help us learn new skills and find what works for us, but there comes a time when we need to decide whether we want to stand out or blend in. Cue the Violent Femmes.

One of the best bands ever (hope I’m not understating this point), Violent Femmes came into prominence in the early 1980s with their now-classic debut album. Such songs as “Blister in the Sun,” “Add It Up,” and “American Music” are part of our shared musical psyche. When I speak with a fellow Femmes fan, most don’t remember their first time hearing the band; instead, they mention the timeless nature of the Femmes’ that is both current and interestingly nostalgic. If you think this is an accident, think again.

In a recent interview, Brian Ritchie, the Femmes’ bassist, discussed how the band created its signature sound.

It’s interesting that you bring up the longevity of the music. We did do that by design… We tried not to sound like our contemporaries and we didn’t even try to sound like the stuff from the past. We tried to create something that could have been recorded prior to that; it could be recorded in the future… We tried to stay away from anything that indicated, ‘this is from 1982’ or ‘this is part of a scene’… It’s that that has enabled young people to keep getting into it over and over again without thinking they are getting into something retro.

How many bands (and leaders) take a similar approach? Most, it seems, are trying to recreate the successes of their colleagues. Yet the colleagues they are imitating, are being imitated because they did/are something original, something unique.

Violent Femmes albumIn the beginning of this article I asked whether you want to stand out or blend in. Maybe the better question is whether you want to emulate or be emulated. If you choose the latter, as the Violent Femmes have, you will garner the advantages that accompany being distinctive. Please note, I call these “advantages,” not “sure signs of success.” Being unique does not guarantee a victory, but when done right, it will give you the opportunity to be more authentic, more creative, more respected, and more satisfied with the decisions you’ve made.

The path to originality is not all that original. It’s a simple mix of genuineness, humility, and entrepreneurship. To get you there, here are a few tips:

  • Don’t seek popularity. Focus on making an impact. With time, your efforts will be noticed and you’re earn the recognition you deserve.
  • Be constructively disruptive. Being unique means you don’t just accept the status quo. You push and question and insert yourself so everyone embraces a culture of constant improvement.
  • Become a change agent. When trying to be original, there’s no place for fear of the unknown. If you aren’t willing to take on the risk of a pioneer, you aren’t interested in being unique.
  • Be friendly. This may seem like an odd suggestion, but to be accepted as unique, you need a reputation as someone who is approachable. There are anomalies to this rule, albeit rare. Try being friendly in a unique way – don’t discuss common issues, avoid mindless chit chat, and have conversations with substance.

Original leaders set the standards by which others compare themselves. They do not do this for the pure sake of being different; they do it because they have confidence in who they are and a drive to improve their surroundings. Does it involve courage, maybe some, but greatness is not doled out to the meek. This might explain why they aren’t called the Docile Femmes.