Character-Based Leadership … An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

“They” say you cannot judge a book by its cover.

I agree, with one little exception …

You can tell an incredible amount about a book from its cover when you know who wrote that book.



NEW BOOK ALERT (yes, another one):  The Character-Based Leader from the LeadChange Group

Lots of folks out there who talk about leadership and leadership development.  Some of them have very powerful reputations and sell lots of books, often speak to very large groups for a handsome fee on their special take on leadership, and bask in the glow of public adoration.

Then we have the folks who are living leadership development every single day.  The folks at LeadChange Group are some of the most capable, thoughtful, enthusiastic, and knowledge people I know.   

What’s different about this group of leaders?

I follow many groups and people who work in Leadership Development. If I had to choose just ONE group to stay connected with and continue to follow, it would be LeadChange.   Wanna know why:

“… character is the only lasting foundation for truly effective leadership”

You’ll be hearing more from me about this book.

Disclaimer:  I have not read this book yet.   I just paid money for my copy …  but I know something of the quality of those who have written it.  If it is half as good as they are, I’ll be buying more copies to share with others who believe that character counts … a lot:)

 The LeadChange Group and particularly the 21 outstanding folks who have contributed to this book know this truth and are living it.   That’s all I need to support their efforts.  

Getting ready to hunker down with a hot cup of coffee and some fine reading in the Heartland ….




Questions and Answers …

Beverly Kay and Julie Winkle Giulioni in “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go”

Asking good questions is the essence of effective coaching, which is the essence of effective management.

It’s not about knowing what to tell someone, it’s about knowing what to ask them.  People have knowledge and awareness inside themselves.  All we have to do is help them bring what they know or sense into the open.

Works that way in therapy, works that way in teaching, and it works that way in leadership.

Pondering what questions to ask in the Heartland ….


Please Don’t Yell … It’s a Dumb Way to Lead


“Why Yelling is Not the best Motivational Strategy”

J. B. Wood provides us with a stream of very thoughtful and useful comments on leadership through his blogs on “Shrinking the Camel ~ you’ll have to visit to find out why it is so named, because I’m not going to explain that title:)  He also tweets insight and wisdom as @shrinkingthecamel.   Now you really want to know what that title is all about, don’t ya?

An excellent example of his work can be had by clicking the title above, which is both some solid progressive leadership thought and an exercise in restraining one’s tendency to get snarky about some people just now figuring this out.

Excerpt the First:

“The word on the street, however, is that things are changing. Yes, that’s right. The surprising new consensus among management is that screaming fails to inspire people (duh?), and just last week, the Wall Street Journal announced that explosive, demeaning bosses are now officially out of vogue.”

Not everyone can write with such finesse, pointing out the ironies, but praising the direction.

Excerpt the Second:

In case you do not read the whole article for some incredible reason, here’s the take-away:

“Emotional self control in a leader, my friends, is worth its weight in gold.”

Bottom Line:  Keep reading the above line until you are living it.

J. B. is also the author of  “At Work As It Is In Heaven:  25 Ways to Re-imagine the Spiritual Purpose of Your Work”.   No, I do not know why the camel is not mentioned in the book.   I do know that this is one of those deceptively easy to read books, which has great wisdom and a fair amount of challenge for us to make our work more meaningful.

Enjoying real wisdom from someone who is walking their walk, talking their talk, and thankfully sharing it all with us in the Heartland ….


Feeling That Good Kind of Pain …

“There are no gains without pains.”

Be relieved that I used a graphic to illustrate this and not a picture of me exercising.  Some gains are not worth the pain;).

Well, this is a fairly well-known saying, partly due to its paraphrased adoption by a commercial interest not named here.  I have heard folks at the gym and on the running circuit repeat this with a somewhat reverent tone too many times to count.

They have “drank the Kool-aid” about the idea of needing to experience pain to do something.

In my past life as a therapist, I know that this dictum holds true.  When we have emotional or psychological issues, but resist experiencing the associated pain, we cannot grow past those issues.   “Stuffing” our feelings usually only leads to continued pain, no resolution of issues or problems, and sometimes we are completely overwhelmed by what we are seeking to avoid.

At work, we are often subjected to situations where honest and sharp emotional responses are in order, but not allowed.

Change often involves pain, in the form of grieving the loss of what was known and the fear and excitement of embracing the new.   Relationships at work, especially those which involve a power differential, create a unique type of pain.  Shattered expectations for advancement, promotion, salary increases, and even just basic job security, generate multiple emotional responses.

I was told as a young manager to “Leave your feelings at home.”  I was expected to work and perform, without displaying any of the emotions which make me fully human.   I was also expected to instill this idea in those I managed.

After a little more experience, I have come to the point where I believe we do ourselves a great disservice by not adopting the “pain for gain” idea in the workplace.   No, I am not talking about the pain of the masses for the gain of the few.  I had something a little more egalitarian in mind.

1)  We want everyone to be engaged, but we do not want to “mess with” emotional responses.  

Then we wonder why the enthusiasm for a new initiative or change is less than ideal.    If we expect people to display the more positive emotions at work, we have to be prepared for them to have the less positive ones as well.

Emotions are windows through which we display our personalities.   Asking people to only show the positive parts does not support honest communication or conflict resolution.

How can we as leaders become more comfortable with a fuller display of emotions at work?

2)  We expect emotional responses to be proper to the occasion, as determined by us and our perceptions of the situation.

We may be excited by a pending change, because we already know or hope that it will benefit us personally.  We do not always consider how that same change appears to others.

Our perceptions do create our realities, but our realities are not other’s realities … and neither’s realities are the truth.

How can we recognize when we in our leadership role are placing our “realities” on others?

3)  We respond poorly to emotional displays and attempt to control or even “outlaw” them. 

People, as a general rule, are uncomfortable with painful emotions, in themselves and even more so in others.    When we uncomfortable, one immediate response is to stifle what makes us uncomfortable.   The reality that this does not address the underlying issues becomes secondary to not feeling pain or discomfort.

How do we as leaders become more comfortable with our own and other’s emotions?

As leaders, we may communicate the attitude that I was taught, that emotions have no place in the workplace.   Maybe we need to communicate a different message.

As managers, we need to use our communication and collaboration skills to make the workplace flow smoothly and effectively.    

 A dammed-up river does not flow, but sometimes the dam bursts.

 Let’s put more energy into helping the river flow than into plans for damage control.

Trying to get into the flow in the Heartland ….

Four Reasons The Buck Stops Here …


Popularized by President Harry S. Truman

About as simple a description of leadership responsibility as we will ever see.

Simple, straightforward, and very evocative, this one has definitely entered our language as a definitive statement that leadership involves being responsible.

When we say “The Buck Stops Here”, we are communicating several important realities:

1)  I am in charge.

Sometimes the person who is responsible obviously displays that authority, so no question exists about who is in charge.   Other times, the leaders may hide behind corporate structure, rules and regulations, or

I am reminded of this each time I hear of a leader who promises to “clean house” after some embarrassing or costly incident.   This tells me that someone at a lower level will bear the impact of the situation, rather than the person at the top taking responsibility for their leadership or lack thereof.

Be in charge by accepting both the authority and the responsibility completely. 

2)  I will make the final decision.

Leaders have authority, which ultimately means they are responsible for making the final decision about issues, challenges, and directions.

Leaders owe their followers a clear statement that they are in charge and will accept the last responsibility.   This includes taking the brunt of the negative activity around a failure or a poor situation.

When the primary “face” of an organization in some type of turmoil is the public relations spokesperson, I will assume poor leadership at the top.

Leaders take visible and audible responsibility for their actions and decisions.

3)  My decision creates a goal.

Even a decision to not do something involves future commitment and direction.  Whether you are trying to do great things or avoid disaster,  your decisions create expectations among your followers.  

Be sure the goals you create in the minds of your followers are the goals you actually intend to pursue.

If your decision is to avoid foreign entanglements, your goal is to act in ways that do so.  Sometimes, a decision to not do something involves more work and planning than would be involved in doing the thing.

Followers deserve clearly and specifically stated goals and missions.

4)  My decision will involve a cost.

People often tout JFK’s goal statement about “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” as an example of a decision statement.  Somewhere in that discussion process, some hard talk about cost had to have occurred.

Even the decision to disregard cost because the overall action is morally attractive still involves a cost.

Inaction often costs more than action, especially when you factor in lost potential. 

Decisions almost always involve committing time, resources, and money toward achieving the goals outlined in the decisions.

 If your decision announcement does not include a clear statement of those costs to the extent known at the time and the possibility of other costs, you have not thought through the decision yet.

Every decision involves a cost … EVERY decision.

Considering how I take responsibility  in the Heartland ….


Image is of the original sign from Truman’s desk via Wikipedia.
From the website:  “According to The Truman Library and others, Truman did not come up with the phrase, though he did popularize it. The idea was in line with his sentiments, and also according to the Truman Library, “Fred M. Canfil, then United States Marshal for the Western District of Missouri and a friend of Mr. Truman, saw a similar sign while visiting the Reformatory and asked the Warden if a sign like it could be made for President Truman.” The phrase did come to embody Truman’s presidency and life.”