Leadership Health

Years ago, when I was a new executive director, I met with two other senior leaders. I was dealing with some kind of cough-congestion combo and was feeling a little drained. As we sat and caught up, one of the men looked at me and commented, “It sounds like you have ‘executive’s disease.’”

As I prepared to explain germ theory to him – he continued: “It seems like executives are always running themselves thin; absorbing stress and not taking care of themselves. Executives are often sick.”

It was true. Since I had taken this position, I had experienced an array of nagging physical ailments. This conversation propelled my journey to learn how to ‘be well’ as a leader. ... READ MORE »

Three Leadership Toxins

Leaders lead out of who they are. You are your greatest leadership tool. Because of this, it’s an obligation of leadership to continually work on your growth and wellness.

Fearful or insecure leaders tend to either be rigid, defensive or vacillating. Angry leaders may be reactive, spiteful or dominating. Depressed leaders may withdraw or be unpredictable.

Conversely, confident leaders are both able to set a clear direction and welcome input that may alter the direction. Calm and reflective leaders are able to respond appropriately and with the right balance of engagement and authority. Resilient, positive leaders engage challenges and disappointments as opportunities. ... READ MORE »

Why Leadership Has Everything To Do With It

Fourteen years ago, I was working in Kosovo with the glamorous title of ‘Psychosocial Officer’. Due to the war and the ethnic cleansing that had taken place there was concern regarding the impacts of PTSD. One of my projects was to launch two therapeutic preschools.

I established the first school in a poor, minority community of Roma and Ashkali. It had two classes of students. Both classes were more or less identical in composition and were held in the same room at different times. The same teachers worked with both classes. They had the same curriculum, equipment and toys.

Within the first couple of months, we noticed that one of the classes seemed to get wildly out of control during the day. The other class seemed fine and reasonably well behaved. The teachers were unable to understand or get a handle on the situation. ... READ MORE »

Does Your Leadership Help or Hinder?

In honor of the 4th of July I’ll reflect on my recent participation in a Goruck Challenge. This event was started by a former Green Beret who wanted to offer the personal challenge and team building experience of the US Special Forces to everyone.

In their own words: The GORUCK Challenge is a team event, never a race. Think of it as a slice of Special Operations training where - from start to finish - a Special Operations Cadre challenges, teaches, and inspires your small team to do more than you ever thought possible. Leadership is taught and teamwork is demanded on missions spanning the best of your city. The hardest part? Signing up.

For us this looked like: A group of 34 men and 3 women – most of whom were strangers to each other. Our cadre was a former Marine Force Recon. He took us on a 12 hour, 9pm to 9am adventure. Each man in the group carried a 40-lb pack. Each woman carried a 30-lb pack. Over the course of the night we: ... READ MORE »

Two Leadership Lessons from Iraq 2011

In 2011 the US withdrew troops from Iraq and, initially, things looked good. In terms of security, military and civilian deaths had dropped to an all-time low. In terms of economy, Iraq’s GDP was roaring up the charts.

Now, only three years later, things appear to be unraveling. What happened? And what we can we learn, as it applies to leadership, here are home?

Simply put – Prime Minister (at that time) Nouri al-Maliki and his government neglected two enormously important leadership responsibilities. ... READ MORE »

The Opportunity in Mistakes

Not long ago I was playing with my 2 year old son. I discovered two important things: First, the little guy has a powerful head-butt. Second, I needed to repair my now broken eyeglass frames.

An eyeglass shop referred me to a local jeweler for the repair. As I entered his store, I noticed a large sign on the wall saying, “Your satisfaction is guaranteed!” Feeling confident that this little inconvenience would soon be resolved, I left my glasses with them and went on my way.

A week later, I returned to pick them up. To my initial delight, they had fixed the broken frame perfectly. However, as I tried them on, I quickly noticed a long, deep scratch across the front of one of the lenses. I pointed this out. The store manager was working in the back. He looked up and said, “It couldn’t have happened here.” ... READ MORE »

Building Teamwork When People Don’t Get Along

Consider Ken.

It’s Monday morning. As Ken struggles to wake up, he feels a familiar sense of dread. The Monday morning blech.

He wishes there was some way to avoid going into work. His job would be great if it weren’t for his ‘team'. They don't act like a team; they act like competitors. It just doesn’t make sense. Individually, they all seem like decent people; but put them around a conference table, and it feels more like managing a group of middle-schoolers. ... READ MORE »

Earning Influence

Years ago, I worked with an organization that played a major role in the reconstruction effort in Kosovo. In my role, I chose who would and would not receive homes or reconstruction assistance in 15 communities.

Although I consulted with local leaders, and ultimately all decisions were approved by the governmental housing committee (of which I was a member), for the most part my decisions were the final word. I represented an enormous amount of money. I represented the future for many families and communities. Additionally, I directed other projects including starting schools and a public utility.

As a result, I had incredible influence. I could walk, uninvited, into anyone's office and expect to be seen. I could call meetings with any group of leaders, at any level, and expect that they would be attended. ... READ MORE »

Creating Clarity

A chief responsibility, for any leader, is to create clarity. When I work with organizations that are struggling or not achieving their goals – their struggles are nearly always birthed out of a context of ambiguity. Ambiguity breeds conflict, builds silos, and bleeds strength.

The ability to create clarity is an ability that sets great leaders apart. Specifically this means clarity in:

  • Direction (vision/mission)
  • Values
  • Priorities & Goals
  • Understanding the environment
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Authority & Decision making
  • Dispute resolution (how disputes are resolved internally & externally)

The more those you lead are able to see and believe the same things you see, and play by the same set of rules, the more they will accomplish. ... READ MORE »

Five Unconventional Characteristics of Effective Leaders

“Successful leadership is not about being tough or soft, sensitive or assertive, but about a set of attributes. First and foremost is character.” – Warren Bennis

“I don’t have to listen to them – I have final authority.”

As I heard these words recently, my heart sank.  The attitude behind those words, frankly, stunk. I could hear that this leader was driving his organization directly off a cliff. If this were his personal business, his attitude might be okay; but it wasn’t. Other people’s lives, hopes and investments were linked to this endeavor. ... READ MORE »